BROOKSVILLE — When expressing joy or exuberance, we often exclaim "Hooray!"
While there will be plenty of celebrating at the Hernando County Fairgrounds this weekend, you'll probably not hear that word. Instead, at the third annual Greek Festival, which kicks off today and continues Saturday, the exclamation will be "Opa!"
Hosted by Christ the Savior Greek Orthodox Church, the indoor event features music, dance groups, door prizes, food, a gift shop and a large Kids Village.
The biggest attraction will be the food and pastries.
"There will be baklava cheesecake available," event chairwoman Emily Thomas. "They are both great on their own, but combine the two, and oh it is so good! If you've never tried it, you must."
There will also be a cooking demonstration of baklava, which is made with layers of phyllo pastry, filled with nuts and typically sweetened with syrup.
Other bakery items will include galaktoboureko (custard pie), diples (deep-fried pastry), finikia (cookies) and karithopita (walnut cake).
Meals will be available from $4 to $10, including favorites such as gyros, moussaka (casserole), salad and spanakopita (spinach pie). New on this year's menu is lamb shank.
All foods will be provided by Greek City Cafe in Spring Hill.
"I can't believe how good (owner) John Pappas has been to us," said Rose Soulis of Christ the Savior's parish council. "When he does things, he puts his whole heart into it."
Returning this year will be Demetri of Demetri and the Islanders, who will entertain with Greek and American music on several Greek instruments.
Dance groups, always a crowd favorite, include Hara (Joy) from Christ the Savior and the Patrida Dance Group of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in New Port Richey. While Hara, a group of young dancers, will perform both days (7 p.m. today; 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday), Patrida will perform Saturday only (3 and 5:30 p.m.).
And those who enjoy Greek dancing will have a chance to learn some moves, as free dance lessons will be offered.
There will also be belly dancing, presented by Shazadi and Jewels of the Desert at 6:30 p.m. both days.
The Kids Village will include a bounce house, obstacle course and games under the tents. There will be a nominal fee for the games and bounce houses, but there will be free activities as well, such as balloon art and face painting.
Raffle tickets for a grand prize of a AAA gift certificate for $1,000 to be used toward a vacation will be available. Tickets are $10 each or three for $25. The second-place winner will receive two tickets to a dinner show at the Show Palace in Hudson, and third place will receive a spa package from Hair Creations by Marci in Spring Hill. Only 500 tickets will be sold, and the winners will be drawn at the end of Saturday's event. Winners do not have to be present.
Proceeds from the festival will benefit Hernando County Shrine Club, HPH Hospice and Christ the Savior Greek Orthodox Church, which is currently in the planning stages for a new church on Anderson Snow Road.
Both Thomas and Soulis agree that the festival wouldn't be possible without overwhelming community support.
"We're a very small church and can't do it all by ourselves" Soulis said. "We get so much support from the community and local merchants. This is a neighborhood event."