It was a day that would have rattled Odysseus. But when torrential rain and wind assaulted the Greek Food Festival in September, the brave board at St. George Greek Orthodox Church plotted its counterattack.
The strategy: Schedule another food festival for the spring to make up for the lost earnings from the fall event, the church's biggest fundraiser of the year. This Saturday, the board raises its flags on the Spring Greek Food Festival.
Though the forecast called for rain this week, Danny Andrews, one of the event organizers, remains optimistic.
"We hope it doesn't rain. But spring rains are more pleasant than the fall windy, cold rain."
Rain or shine, the church will have guests covered -- literally -- with a tent and umbrella-shaded tables.
The biggest difference between the fall and spring festivals is that the menu has been streamlined to promote efficiency.
"We won't have sausage or meatballs," Andrews said. "We want the line to go faster, so we're trying the full plate instead of customers saying, 'Give me one of this, etc.' ... It will go a lot quicker in the line."
Although lemon chicken will be offered, it's moving from the hall to the outside barbecue area.
"The chicken dinner will be cooked slightly differently. We're using the outside and inside facilities both. Prepping inside, barbecuing outside."
Along with the half-chicken dinner, the barbecue booth crew -- led by Golden Ox owner Ted Exarchoulakos -- will serve up meals of skewered pork and lamb shank, which is a new item. Each entree will be served with rice, salad and bread for $15 a plate. Andrews said the church ordered 1,000 dinners for the barbecue booth.
"We do encourage people to come early. If a thousand customers come by (the barbecue booth) by 7 or 8 o'clock, we'll ask them to go to some of the other booths."
A la carte booths will serve up plenty of tasty dishes, including gyros, dolmades (hand-rolled grape leaves stuffed with meat, onions and rice) and fan-favorite loukoumades (honey-puffed doughnuts sprinkled with cinnamon).
"Loukoumades, yes, that's the big seller available all day long. They're used to moving through the volume. It's a popular item."
Further tempting sweet-toothed diners is the assortment of traditional cookies and pastries, assembled and sold by church members.
"All the pastries will be in the Sunday school rooms. We'll have the full selection again. The cooks baked most of them over the weekend, and this week they'll be packaging them in their trays to be ready to sell."
Wet your whistle with water, soda, Greek coffee or a libation from the full Greek bar.
For children too picky for the traditional fare, the church will offer new kid-friendly items: pizza slices and churros.
The churros, aided by warmers and expertise from Los Hermanos, are a nod to the addition of more Hispanic families to the small church.
Entertainment and more
Beyond the food and church tours, which will be conducted every hour between 4 and 8 p.m., the culture will be celebrated in the entertainment as well.
Two groups of children led by returning instructor Soula Scholl will perform traditional Greek dances, entertaining and possibly inspiring guests.
"If they want to get out there and dance, they are welcome to it," Andrews said.
Los Angeles band Synthesi returns with live music throughout the day, and there will be a kids' bounce house.
One of the two main reasons behind the spring event was interest from vendors, including Ben & Jerry's, clothing and accessory retailers, and the Milan Institute, which brings students out offering massages for a nominal fee. In addition, there will be a raffle for a $1,000 cash prize. Tickets are $5 or six for $20. Proceeds will benefit the church and the Bakersfield Homeless Center.
"We have better odds than the lottery. It's one in 5 million with the lottery. Here, maybe it's one in 1,000."
Though this is not the first spring festival the church has held (a vintner event was held a few years back), it probably won't be the last.
"If the community is supportive of a second event, we'll have it. We have the facility, we have the expertise. We want to continue offering our culture to Kern County."