Celebrate Greek culture in Myrtle Beach

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The 23rd annual Greek Festival will kick off in Myrtle Beach Sept. 25 for four days of Greek food, music, dancing, activities and more.

The popular festival draws thousands of visitors to St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, a classical Greek church on 33rd Avenue North on Bypass 17. The event is one of the cultural hallmarks of the area, celebrating the distinctive food, dancing, music art and other aspects of Greek Orthodox families and the their home country.

St. John's dates back to the early 1960s, when local Greek Orthodox families started gathering for Orthodox services in borrowed worship spaces. By 1976, they had their own church and in 1991, St. John's opened its beautiful current church building. Today, the parish serves several hundred families in its beautiful church and fellowship hall.

The Greek Festival started with modest beginnings and has grown each year to include more and more vendors, activities, foodstuffs and other elements of Greek culture. Greek dancing, with participants wearing traditional costumes, will take place on the grounds of the church (you can see YouTube videos of the dancing to get a sense of what it's like). Dancers, including many children, have been practicing for weeks to bring these traditional Greek dances to life at the festival, and it will be a rare opportunity to see it in person. Live music and children's activities will also take place throughout all four days of the festival.

Vendors will include those selling Greek art, jewelry, food, wine, crafts, gift imports, souvenirs and more. Greek pastries including baklava will be available to take home from specialty vendors. Even Greek groceries, imported and otherwise, will be available.

And what food! Celebrated throughout the world, Greek cuisine will be well represented at the festival. Choose from lamb gyros, spanikopita, Greek pastries, cookies and other dishes. Mousaka, a classic Greek eggplant casserole, will be offered as will the delicious tiropita, a three-cheese pie. And don't forget the stuffed grape leaves (dolmathes). Church volunteers have been working hard at making these traditional food items in preparation for the thousands of people who will want to sample them. You won't find more authentic Greek food anywhere. One thing is for sure: You won't go hungry!

For those interested in the history of the church and the beautiful iconography inside, join church experts for lectures and tours at 11:30 a.m. and 1, 4 and 6 p.m. daily. There's plenty to learn about this amazing culture and the history of Greek Orthodoxy. That history is represented in the many icons in the church. The icons are beautiful paintings of church leaders, saints and martyrs throughout history, in addition to those depicting Christ, Mary and other holy figures. This is truly a piece of Greek Orthodox art, and knowledgeable church members will be happy to guide you through the church so you can learn all about it.

Raffle tickets will be for sale all during the festival, and proceeds support the church and its charities.

The festival will take place from:
 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 25
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 26
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27
Noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28

Admission is $1 at the gate, with children 12 and younger admitted for free. You won't find a better bargain on entertainment anywhere in South Carolina!

For more information on the festival, contact:
St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church
3301 33rd Ave. North, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Phone: 843-448-3773, or visit their website.

(posted 8/31/14)