Think of Bakersfield as a tapestry — our cultures, ethnicities, races, customs and faith traditions weave us together.
We are our own threads, yet we're tightly woven as we live together, work together, play together, and sometimes find ourselves at odds with one another.
We're intricate. We're complex.
But when it comes down to it, we have a lot to celebrate, and we do so with beautiful and fun events — often with a lot of food — throughout the year. Here are just a few.
Greek Food Festival
The Greek Food Festival returns to the St. George Greek Orthodox Church each October.
How to sum it up? "No. 1 is the entertainment, having a fun time," said Ted Exarchoulakos, who along with wife Kathy runs the lamb shank booth. "The atmosphere with the Greek music, which is very, very enjoyable just listening to it, and, of course, the dancing. You combine it with the food and just have a really good night."
This is the place to enjoy a bit of everything Greek: shish kebabs, loukaniko (Greek sausage) and keftedes (Greek meatballs with sauce), vegetarian stuffed peppers, beef gyros, falafel, hot dogs, loukoumades (honeyed doughnuts), spanakopita (spinach pie), tiropita (cheese pie) and more.
Kern County Basque Festival
The annual Memorial Day weekend event is full of food, music, dancing, pelota (handball) games and a mus (card game) tournament.
The beautiful attire worn by the dancers is worth a trip by itself.
"It’s just a day to be among family and friends, celebrate the Basque culture and our traditions, just like prior years," club President Louis Iturriria has said.
Scottish Games and Gatherings
Where else in Kern County will you see amazing shows of strength than at the Kern County Scottish Games and Gatherings? Sanctioned by the Scottish Heavy Athletics, you can watch the stone throw, the weight for distance, the weight for height, the hammer throw and the caber toss.
Add in the food, music, dancing and more, and you're sure to find two days of fun for the family each April at the Kern County Fairgrounds.
Check out the kilts, swords and handmade jewelry for sale, too.
Dancing, drumming, storytelling and more in recognition of African cultural principles make up the annual Kwanzaa celebration at Bakersfield's Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.
The holiday runs each year from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.
According to the Smithsonian Institution, Kwanzaa celebrates seven values. They are: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).
“Kwanzaa expresses a deep-rootedness and African culture that crosses all countries, religions, ages, generations and political persuasions to promote the collective empowerment and expression of ethical values,” Bakari Sanyu, the event’s organizer, has said.
Latino Food Festival Menudo and Pozole Cook-off
Head to the Kern County Museum in May for the popular — and packed — Latino Food Festival Menudo and Pozole Cook-off.
"One of my favorite parts of it, as the president of the chamber, is that it's like a huge family gathering," said Jay Tamsi of the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Along with the food contests, guests enjoy a variety of music appealing to the young and old.
St. Demiana Coptic Orthodox Church hosts the Coptic Festival in October. Enjoy an assortment of Egyptian and Middle Eastern savory and sweet dishes, such as beef liver, shish kebab, grilled beef and chicken, and stuffed grape leaves.
Vegetarians can enjoy potato "tornadoes" (twisted fried potatoes on a stick) and falafel or tamiya, which is similar but made with fava beans.
Sweets include baklava; basbousa, an Egyptian semolina cake with yogurt; kunafa, a pastry made with vermicelli noodles; and many different types of Egyptian cookies.
Tours of the church are also offered.
"I love to see people's faces light up when they learn what the Coptic Orthodox Church is," organizer Isis Sterling said.
The Sikh community hosts parades to celebrate the birthday of the Sikh religion.
Anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 attend, going to the Gurdawra Guru Angad Darbar on Stine Road.
A pillar of the religion is providing food to anyone who needs it, and that tradition is showcased with a variety of celebratory foods offered during the parades along with prayers in the temple.
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