(UPDATED 2/23/21) The 2020 Annual Sacramento Greek Festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but you can get your Greek on with Greek-To-Go.
Lesson learned – you take your chances if you go to the Sacramento Greek Festival on the last day of the event if you have your heart set on enjoying some of your favorite Greek foods! The 54th Annual Greek Festival, held from October 6 through October 8, returned to East Sac this year.
This year the Greek Festival was held in the new indoor/outdoor event center next to the Greek Orthodox Church on Alhambra Blvd. The venue is across the street from McKinley Park. The East Sacramento location will be the permanent home of the Festival going forward.
The new venue has ample indoor and outdoor space, and is perfect for this very popular event as it can accommodate large crowds. The event is so large, in fact, that the Greek Festival has in recent years been held at the Sacramento Convention Center.
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Everyone goes to the Greek Festival for the food – authentic Greek cuisine from all corners of the Greek Mediterranean. The Greek food offerings are prepared by Church volunteers. However, there is much more to the festival. For example, you will find live music, dance performances, dancing lessons, a Kids Zone, cooking demonstrations, etc.
A friend and I strolled over to the Greek Festival on Sunday. The entry fee for adults was $5 cash (children under 12 are free). A number of those waiting in line to enter were very glad to see an ATM machine placed at the entrance.
After entering the venue we stopped at the Loukoumades (Greek doughnut puffs drizzled with honeyed syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon) booth and purchased a small order to consume while we decided upon our plan of action. The Loukoumades are made right in front of you and served hot.
Note: Each day of the Greek Festival in the late afternoon/early evening there is a Loukoumades Eating Contest. The 1st prize is $50 in Festival dollars.
Throughout the day we had the opportunity to watch several costumed dance troupes composed of youths of varying ages dance on the outdoor plaza. The youngest ones were especially cute.
The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation was open for tours for several hours, and in mid-afternoon the Annunciation Choir performed inside the church. I had always admired the outside of the church – but the interior is spectacular. The parish, founded in 1920, is the oldest Greek Orthodox parish between the San Francisco Bay Area and Salt Lake City. The current sanctuary and hall on Alhambra Blvd. was built in 1952.
We enjoyed a cooking demonstration – Tips on Preparing Baklava – on the outside plaza. It was all set up with a large mirror overhead so we could easily see what was being done as the steps were explained. We picked up several good tips about both handling filo dough and making Baklava.
One of the tips was the liberal use of butter – butter under and on top of each layer of filo dough. This is obviously one reason why it takes 800 pounds of butter to put on the Greek Festival.
It was at the end of the cooking demonstration that an announcement was made that the Baklava had been sold out! My friend who had planned to purchase Baklava to take home to her family was disappointed. Lesson learned!
Greek Festival Menu
After the cooking demonstration we decided it was well past time to get in line to enter the indoor dining court for a late lunch. There were Meze (appetizer) and Gyro booths set up outside, along with tables and chairs, but we opted to dine inside in the Dining Court (Estiaorio).
The line was long, but it did keep moving – if a bit slowly. The new building is quite large, and the interior Dining Court was set up with rows of long tables to the left and the food station on the right. There was a line on both sides of the food station, and from there on the line seemed to move along at a brisker pace.
I had planned to order Beef Dolmathes (grape leaves stuffed with rice and seasonings) but they had run out of both the Beef Dolmathes and Vegetarian Dolmathes. Several other dishes were also marked “SOLD OUT” so I had to revise my plan.
As we were standing in line I noticed that one of the dishes being offered was the “Old Spaghetti Factory” browned butter and Mizithra cheese spaghetti. My friend, who loves this particular dish, told me that the Old Spaghetti Factory has their Mizithra cheese specially made – and even sells containers of the cheese for home use. This was news to me! I am going to have to try my hand at making browned butter and Mizithra cheese spaghetti.
For lunch I settled on and enjoyed Moussaka (layers of eggplant and Greek-seasoned ground beef topped with a creamy Bechamel sauce), and Fasolakia (green beans baked with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, herbs, olive oil and seasonings). Both were very tasty.
I also stopped by the bar (Taverna) and purchased an imported Greek beer. Also on sale were Greek wines, imported specialty sodas, etc.
As we dined we listened to Greek music played by the Hohlax Trio. A very nice touch. Outside on the main stage a bit later Mythos, a very popular Greek band from the Bay Area, performed.
We decided to check out the vendors towards the back of the property before leaving. The Kids Zone activity area was also located nearby and they all seemed to be having fun.
On our way out my friend stopped to pick up Loukoumades to take home to her family in lieu of Baklava since she did not want to go home empty-handed.
To sum up, I am really glad to have the Greek Festival return to East Sac – but next year I am going to go on either Friday or Saturday!
See related blog post: Greek-To-Go
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