Annual Greek festival celebrates food, culture

Dancers from the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church performed Sunday at the 44th Annual Charleston Greek Festival.

The 44th annual Charleston Greek Festival concluded Sunday with dancing, music, food and fun.

The three-day event, which ran Friday through Sunday was sponsored by Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and held on the church's grounds on Race Street downtown. The event featured 29 vendors, food, clothing and housewares.

Nearly 40 children with the church's Hellenic Dance Program performed traditional Greek folk dances as part of the event. The band "A Night in Athens" also performed its take on modern Greek music.

Tina Klein, assistant director of the Hellenic Dance Program, said the children, ages 4 to 18, who wore traditional handmade costumes, performed dances representing various regions within Greece. The group performs throughout the year at festivals and Hellenic dance competitions. The Charleston Greek Festival is the group's final performance of the season.

"We are instilling the culture in our children by keeping the traditions alive through dance," Klein said. "The kids really enjoy it because they are able to share the traditions of the Greek culture."

Sharon Parsonage and her young niece were among the thousands who came out to partake in the Greek culture on Sunday. The pair watched the Hellenic dancing before Parsonage's niece decided to try out the moves for herself along with several other children swaying to the music.

"She really liked it," Parsonage said of her niece's excitement over the dancing.

Rosemary Mims, her husband and their two granddaughters also came out to enjoy the festival's food and entertainment. Mims' youngest granddaughter got her face painted with an elaborate butterfly while Mims and her husband enjoyed some authentic Greek food.

"It looks like everybody is having a nice time," Mims said.

The festival was shaping up to be more successful than last year. Sales were up a total of 20 percent for Friday and Saturday, said Nicholas Clekis, co-chairman of the festival. The festival's success, Clekis said, was a combination of good weather and longevity.

"We've gone from a food fair to a family event," he said. "It's nice to come out whether you're Greek or not and be Greek for a day."

A portion of the proceeds from the festival will be donated to veterans outreach, Teacher's Supply Closet and Orthodox Christian Charities. The remaining funds will go toward a new Hellenic Center at the church, Clekis said.