An annual favorite is back and giving Long Beach a little taste of Greece this Labor Day weekend.
It's the 70th annual Long Beach Greek Festival, and it offers another authentic Greek experience, according to event organizer Bobbie Soupos.
"We're pretty well-known throughout the city," Soupos said. "I mean as soon as you walk in, you can smell the amazing food. And the environment — you can't beat it."
She added that the event has been a labor of love since its inception seven decades ago, which has relied on the work of volunteers from the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Greek Orthodox church. The church grounds also hosts the festival.
"All of the money that we raise at the festival goes back into the church and is set aside for next year’s event, as well as for our outreach programs," Soupos said.
In addition to admission (which costs $5 per person), guests can take a tour of the church — which was erected in the 1930s — led by one of the church members.
"People basically have access to the entire grounds," Soupos said. "It's a great way to get to know the community, and let them get to know us."
And then there's the food.
Rotisserie chickens will be lined up near the entrance, alongside a near endless line of desserts, festival food favorites and full dinners.
"The food is a feature itself," Soupos said. "People come just for the food, and there's plenty of it."
All of the food is cooked by church volunteers, including the sweets, which are prepared a week beforehand as some desserts take days to finish. There's everything from baklava, pasta flora (Greek jam tarts), Kataifi (a nut-filled pastry) and Galaktoboureko (a custard-filled flakey dough ball).
Food includes the traditional gyro, lamb chops and Greek salad. Then there's the more difficult-to-say items like spanakopites (spinach and feta pies), fasolakia (Greek-style beans) and tyropites (Greek cheese pies).
And for those wanting to flex their cooking chops, there will be plenty of opportunities to learn how to cook a dish or two, just like the Greeks do.
Finally, it wouldn't be a Greek party without dancing. Guests can enjoy the live band or learn how to dance on the dance floor. Groups will demonstrate Greek dancing all weekend long, as well.
"We’ll teach you how to dance and we’ll teach you how to cook," Soupos said. "You'll be a part of our very big Greek family."
Free parking will be available at the VA Long Beach parking lot on Bellflower Boulevard and Anaheim Road. Guests can park and take the free shuttle to the festival.
The 70th annual Long Beach Greek Festival is taking place from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday through Monday, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2, at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church, 5761 E. Colorado St. Admission is $5 per person.
For more information, go to lbgreekfest.org.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.