Greeks danced and celebrated in Charleston on Saturday.

In the motherland, they reeled from street riots this past week.

It was an unusual juxtaposition for the 40th annual festival that toasts all things Greek against that of the tumultuous events unfolding over the debt crisis in the normally quiet Balkan Peninsula country.

Greek Festival-goers munched on gyros and baklava and washed it down with authentic Greek beer or wine. They watched traditional Greek dances and shopped for Orthodox crosses and coin scarves. They came by shuttle buses from Riley Park, pushed baby carriages under a bristling sun and toured the ornate Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity.

Meanwhile, Greek vendors greeted customers with a smile and then talked of the civil strife in the debt-ridden country where many have family and friends.

Kostas Antoniou, a resident of Athens, Greece, who is visiting Charleston through June, said the Greek government is clipping too much too fast to shore up its financial problems.

"When you try to take bread from the mouth of somebody, you are going to pay," the semi-retired jeweler said from his jewelry booth. "They are asking for pensions to be less and more in taxes. If the government cuts what it says, I think there will be big trouble. It will go from best to worst."

Charleston resident Koula Kordonis spoke by phone with a friend in Greece on Friday, and she said they are confused because they don't know what to believe, what to expect or what to do.

"But I feel like they will do what they need to do to make it through because they always have," she said. "We have our crisis. They have theirs. All of us have only half of what we used to have, and we are happy. I told her, 'Y'all are going to have to learn to do the same thing.' "

Hayat Saba usually goes to Greece every two years, but she's canceled her trip this summer. She's going to Cancun, Mexico, instead.

George Morris, author of "Charleston's Greek Heritage," said he's glad the Greek government is trying to impose some restrictions so the economy can improve itself.

Though Greece is part of the 27-nation European Union, Morris said people in other countries are reluctant to lend a hand to a different culture. "They are not bound in a sense of common identity like Americans," he said.

Festival Chairman Tom Meletis, who has an uncle in Athens, called last week's clashes terrible and had his own thoughts about who's responsible for Greece's problems, but he wanted to focus on the merrymaking of Greeks and festival-goers in Charleston.

He said attendance was up, especially on Friday, compared with last year, and everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves.

"Here, you can be Greek for the day," he said.