The courtyard of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church was filled with people enjoying flavorful food and live music as the Columbia Greek Festival began this Thursday.
Originally a food festival to fundraise for church and charity, Columbia’s Greek Festival has grown into a way for the community to experience Greek culture beyond cuisine. The festival will continue until Sept. 18.
Starting at 10 a.m., the grills were fired up and the vendors welcomed festival goers to purchase clothing, jewelry, art and more. In addition to food and vendors, the church is open for self-guided tours.
Under a sunny sky, attendees lined up for food and gathered under a large tent to enjoy their meals.
Though the festival provides plentiful opportunities to chow down on traditional Greek food, it has other cultural offerings too. Two live Greek music performances by The Aegean Duo and The Nick Trivelas Band will take place throughout the four-day festival. There will also be traditional Greek folk dancing performed by the Hellenic Dance Festival Team and youth dance groups Pangerie and Goya on Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday.
Father Michael Platanis, a priest of the Greek Archdiocese of America, has been serving as parish priest at Holy Trinity since 2008. Platanis is supportive of the festival chairpeople, who he says do the "heavy lifting" in making the event appeal to its attendees.
“The great thing about this festival is that you can come here really with just a few dollars in your pocket and spend the whole day. You can eat, drink, listen to music, see kids dancing (and) watch people,” Platanis said.
Platanis, over his past 14 years with the church, has seen the festival grow from a single parking lot to cover all four corners of the church property on the corner of Main and Richland Street.
While it has changed in layout, the festival has also added more accessible parking and improved outdoor restrooms.
Michael Bizimis is the co-chair of the chicken souvlaki booth, which serves a traditional Greek dish, and said that putting on this event took a village.
Bizimis, who was born in Greece, sees the festival as a way to bring him closer to home.
“Greek culture is all about food, is all about getting together and having really good Greek food, and that's what we're offering here," Bizimis said. "We're offering really good Greek food and a great environment.”
One festival goer, Caroline Baccene, said she hadn’t attended the festival since she was in college.
“We came for the food today and I wanted to take … my husband because we’ve never been together,” Baccene said. “We’re here to experience the Greek culture.”
Those volunteering at the festival said they enjoy it just as much as the patrons. Torin Kennedy, a volunteer and first-year exercise science student at USC, said the good weather paired with the good smells made his experience great.
Another volunteer and USC alum, Roman Platanis, the son of Father Michael, said volunteering is an easy way to give back to the church that does so much for the community.
One way they give back is by using money raised for the Hellenic Community Fund, which provides assistance to those who need emergency financial support.
"I get to see everybody and I get to see all the faces of the community … we're all just having a good time, and it's rewarding,” Roman said.
Visit columbiasgreekfestival.com for more information.