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Greek Food Festival serves thousands of Utahns

20130928Greek Festival (Lauren Crest)-19
(By: Lauren Crest) Hungry “foodies” at the Greek Festival waiting patiently in a line that wrapped around the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church and down the sidewalk.
(Photo by Lauren Crest) Community members wait in the food line to be served Greek specialties.
(Photo by Lauren Crest) Community members wait in the food line to be served Greek specialties.

Not even the rain could keep Ogden ‘foodies’ from attending the Ogden Greek Food Festival. The two-day event kicked off Friday at 10 a.m. and continued throughout Saturday.

More than 10,000 people from across Utah made their way to the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church on 42nd Street in Ogden.

“We came up from Layton. It’s probably the fourth or fifth year we have been here,” said Sam Hansen, who attended the festival with his wife and son. “It’s great food at a great price. The lamb is my favorite, and I wait all year for it. It’s good because there are a lot of options. If you can’t find something you like, you’re crazy.”

More than 100 volunteers started prepping the food almost a week in advance, making authentic Greek dishes from scratch.

Crystal Harper, a 14-year-old from Ogden, volunteered along with her mother for the first time this year.

“My mom has been cooking all week, and I got some of my friends together to help clean tables and help people get their orders,” Crystal said. “There are a lot more people than I expected. It’s really nice to meet so many new people.”

The festival began in 1964 and has been bringing people of all faiths together ever since.

“You don’t have to be Greek to come. It’s a good opportunity to learn about the other religions we have in Ogden,” said Connie Jensen, a Roy resident who has been coming to the festival for the past 10 years. “No one is going to try and convert you. Everyone is here to enjoy good food in the company of their friends. It isn’t about religion.”

The line could be seen from the street as festival-goers waited for more than hour to enter the building. All the dishes were served a la carte so that visitors could enjoy several dishes and share with friends and family. The seating was banquet-style to encourage neighbors and friends to mingle and get to know new people.

A favorite dish among the festival-goers was the dolmathes, small rolls of ground beef, rice and herbs each wrapped in a grape leaf.

“Our favorites are the spanakopita and dolmathes,” Hansen said. “A lot of the dishes here can’t be found anywhere else.”

Brody Madison, a Weber State University senior, had a different plan for all the Greek food.

“I came ready to stock up and take home as much food as I can eat in a week,” he said. “They put together some great takeout meals, so I just buy four or five meals’ worth of food and eat like a king for the next week. It beats eating ramen noodles every night.”

Out of all the dishes — including ravani, kataifi, souvlaki, salata — one Greek dish stood out the most: the loukoumathes, small Greek scones that are deep-fried, dipped in honey and then dusted with cinnamon.

“I wait all year for the loukoumathes,” Hansen said. “Greek restaurants don’t tend to serve them because they are so much work. I could probably go as far as saying I have dreams about the loukoumathes.”

A craft bazaar inside the community center sold imported Greek gifts along with locally made goods. The proceeds from the festival are split and donated to local shelters, hospitals and charities throughout the year.

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