It’s all Greek as the St. George Greek Orthodox Church hosts its annual Greek Food Festival, perfect for the entire family to enjoy with food, the culture, traditions, performances and more.
But perhaps a highlight of the festival is the Greek dancing performances and lessons by Nikoli Hackleman and the St. George dancers.
Hackleman’s mother came to the United States from Greece and founded the St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bakersfield.
Growing up in the church, he’s been part of the Greek dancing group for as long as he can remember.
“It’s an ancient thing that they’ve done for quite some time,” Hackleman said of the dancing tradition in Greek culture.
It started at a time when the Greeks were enslaved by the Ottoman Empire as a way to give themselves a sense of hope and expression.
“Before they would go into battle, they would actually dance to give them confidence before they went in,” added Hackleman.
Not only was it used for battle, but there are dances for festivals, weddings, parties and a variety of celebrations.
The St. George Dancers are a large group of around 20 high school and college-age students, as well as a middle school group, made up of 10 or so dancers.
Hackleman himself started just after high school and eventually took over when the former dance instructor, Soula Scholl, decided to step down. Since 2018, Hackleman has been the leader.
Since they missed last year’s event due to COVID-19, the festival is excited to be back this year, as is Hackleman.
“Don’t be afraid to ask one of the dancers how to dance. We want the Bakersfield community to come and learn,” said Hackleman.
Authentic Greek food will also be served throughout the event. That includes barbecue, Gyro sandwiches, appetizers, lamb shanks, Pastitsio (Greek lasagna), vegetarian fare, Greek coffee and pastries.
There will be shopping, a bounce house and church tours throughout the festival, as well.
Joe and Irene Sinopole are on the same page that it’s an event that many in Kern County love to attend.
“It's also a time for our church, St. George Greek Orthodox Church, to open our doors to the public and let everyone know what we are all about. As a member, it is an event that lets me work closely with our church members who are from all walks of life. We are a family and you can feel the love,” said Joe Sinopole.
His wife, Irene, agreed you can feel the love of the festival.
“From the long hours of camaraderie making by hand the food that is sold, dance practice with the kids you grew up with and many planning meetings comes a solidarity that is palpable. Our common faith undergirds our purpose. We are so happy to have a full festival this year,” Irene Sinopole said.
The Festival will take place Friday, Oct. 1 through Sunday, Oct. 3. Admission is $5, though children under 12 are admitted free. However, if guests register on the St. George Greek Orthodox church website, they can get $2 off their ticket.
For more information and discount coupons, visit the festival website at www.BakersfieldGreekFoodFestival.org, and follow the Greek Food Festival on Instagram.