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Boca Raton’s Saint Mark Greek Orthodox Church will have its 40th annual Greek Festival Jan. 27 to 30.
According to senior pastor the Rev. Father Mark Leondis, the festival started with a small amount of people dancing and cooking, first at Boca Elementary School and then at Spanish River High School. Currently, church records indicate that the event sees between 10,000 to 15,000 attendees ever year.
“What began as a handful of Saint Mark parishioners has turned into an event for the entire community,” he said. “Over the years, foods were enhanced, our award-winning Greek dancers perform with authentic costumes from Greece, rides and games were added, and a live band and DJ entertain throughout the weekend. Each year more and more vendors are added and it has grown into a major event in the life of Boca Raton.”
Case in point: This year, there will be over 25 vendors selling products from Greece and Europe, jewelry, skincare and art, among other items.
COVID safety precautions will be in place for the festival, including masks for volunteers, sanitizing stations and social distancing signs, Leondis said. The safety measures may change the look and feel of certain aspects of the festival, but one thing remains the same: the traditional homemade cuisine.
“Even back then, everything was made fresh and no corners were cut on the food — and that tradition has remained till today,” he said. “All the proceeds benefit the life of our Saint Mark Church, which includes outreach and philanthropy.”
For those who want to take some home, online ordering with pickup times will be available on the church’s website.
Attendees can also take a guided tour of the church’s sanctuary. Those who attend will see iconography that portrays the early church as well as the life of Jesus. Tours will take place during the festival with times listed at each booth.
“What is truly unique is that all of our Saint Mark faithful come out and volunteer for this event,” Leondis said. “From youth to young parents and families to our adults and seniors, everyone looks forward and offers themselves to make this event special. They are truly loving and hospitable volunteers and we look forward to welcoming you to our home.”
When asked what the festival will look like in the future, Leondis replied with nothing but optimism.
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“We keep growing and who knows, maybe we will increase the event to more days and weekends,” he said. “While it is an exhausting few days for our volunteers, it really brings them together.”
The festival takes place from 4 to 9 p.m. Jan. 27, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Jan. 28 and 29 and noon to 9 p.m. Jan. 30.
Premium parking is available onsite for $10. Remote parking is free and available through shuttles to and from Patch Reef Park, 2000 Yamato Road. Free parking without a shuttle is available at Spanish River Church, 2400 Yamato Road, and First Baptist Church, 2350 NW 51st St.
Admission is $5 for adults and free for children 12 and under.