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Folk dancing, food and fun bring life to Tampa Greek Festival

By Amy Scherzer
ANDY JONES/STAFF The Kefi Dance Group performsat a past Greek festival at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church.

TAMPA ó The music and dancing never stops at the Tampa Greek Festival, the biggest fundraiser of the year for St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in south Tampa.

"We invite everyone to watch ancient folk dances, eat authentic food and be Greek for a day," said Mike Xenick, a lifelong church member helping to organize the three-day fest opening today (Nov. 10) and continuing through late Sunday afternoon.

The church choir and four dance groups, ages 3 to adult, will entertain in traditional Greek attire. John Demas & the Omega Project perform on the main stage all weekend.

But itís the Greek food for sale that really draws the crowd, hundreds of festival-goers who look forward all year to simmered lamb shank, lemon chicken, pastitsio (Greek lasagna), keftedes (Greek meatballs) and dolmades (grape leaves).

Greek and American coffee are served "Kafenion-style" alongside a row of breads and sweets including honey-soaked baklava, kourambiethes wedding cookies and diples honey and nut pastries. Small round donuts called loukoumades are fried to order by Engie Halkias as she has done every year since the first festival in 1981.

Ouzo cocktails and Greek beers are available in the Opa! Party Tent where guitarist and bouzouki instructor Demas plays with the Omega Project from 8 p.m till closing.

Rather than dining in the Great Hall, sports fans might prefer eating in front of several large televisions set up in an adjacent tent dubbed the Grecian Gardens. For the younger crowd, the Kidsí Zone will offer a bounce house, carnival rides, games and craft activities.