Greek Food Festival tasty


Javier Valdes

Zaid Dawood and Eleni Southerd perform at the Greek Food Festival on Oct. 16

Crystal Valdez, Reporter


Bakersfield’s Greek Food Festival hosted its 44th annual event, and committee members, as well as guests, were eager to partake in the festival’s events despite any setbacks the cold weather may have entailed.

The festival took place on Oct. 16 from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Oct. 17 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at Hellenic Park on Truxtun Avenue next to the Amtrak station.

There were stands that offered a variety of Greek foods, from falafel sandwiches to dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), and the event’s featured treat, loukomades (pastry balls dipped in honey). There were also numerous vendors for guests to shop, as well as Greek folk dancing performances, children’s games, live music, and a tour of the Saint George Church.

Olympia Hackleman has been an active member of the festival committee for 35 years.

She believes people had a lot a fun at the festival, and were very pleased to be there. She said, “I think they [guests] feel the Greek spirit and the ‘filoxenía,’ that’s a Greek word that means hospitality.”

Hackleman’s son Nickolas, an active member of the festival committee since birth, was one of the dancers that performed at the event. He mentioned that the Greek Food Festival helped him feel proud and very connected to his culture

The festival also helped guests learn about culture different from their own.

John Weesner with the Bakersfield Californian attended the festival for the food, but ended up staying for the fun.

“The food is fantastic. It’s really good, and I would definitely come back next year,” said Weesner as he tried his first loukomade.

Weesner was not alone. His friend Alyson Nagatani, a local nut grower, said, “I love it [the food]. It’s good to come early. The food is fresh and the temperature is cool.” She went on to add, “We can definitely learn a lot about a culture through their food.”

Local stay-at-home mom, Angela Ibarra agreed with the notion that one could learn a lot about a culture through its food. On her way to the library with her two young daughters, Ibarra heard the Greek music, and decided to pay the festival a visit.

“They love it. My plan was for them to pick out books so they could learn about Halloween. We can do that another day. This is something they won’t get to see everyday. They’re asking a lot of questions about what they’re seeing and what they’re eating. The people here are nice enough and welcoming enough to answer their questions,” Ibarra stated.

According to chairman of the Greek Food Festival, Evangelos Demestihas, the festival serves as the main fundraiser to support their church’s ministries. Additionally, every year one or two charities are selected to accept donations from the money raised at the festival.

This year, they will be donating part of their proceeds to Honor Flight in Kern County and to Syrian refugees.

Demestihas said that the most the Greek Food Festival has ever made within the two days is about $120,000.

He concluded, “It’s unique. It’s important to extend the church and the culture to the community.”