CARDIFF BY THE SEA — For the 32nd consecutive year, Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church has transformed its grounds into a quaint Greek village where participants experienced fine food, traditional Greek dancing and Greek hospitality on Sept. 11 and Sept. 12.
“This is always a fun time for the whole family,” said Bruce Simpson, who watched his three children play various carnival games. “We’re not Greek, we don’t go to this church, but we know it’s here because of the festival,” he said.
In fact, tours of the sanctuary were available for those interested in viewing the interior mosaics and Botticino marble. Father Degaitas explained the iconography adorning various architectural pieces of the church, which were produced under the direction of Bruno Salvatori, a world-recognized master of mosaics. From its unique stained glass windows that feature early Byzantine symbols, to the golden dome portraying Christ the Pantokrator, the church is widely thought to represent one of the finest works of Byzantine art in the world.
Outside the mood was upbeat with the smells of food wafting though the various stalls and booths. The open marketplace typified a traditional bazaar with fresh produce and Greek Deli specialty food items, Greek imports, pottery, fine jewelry and artwork.
A variety of foods allowed visitors to experience traditional Greek cuisine. “This is my favorite part,” said Tom Parsons, an Oceanside resident. “I lived in Greece right after college and I love to come and eat my way through the whole thing,” he said, as he nibbled on the ever-popular Loukoumathes — honey-dipped Greek donuts.
The church’s award-winning folk dance groupes, Elpida, Opalakia and Neo Kyma Dancers delighted the audience with performances thought each day. Those interested in learning Greek dance received free instruction and tried to imitate the moves of more seasoned dancers as they vigorously shouted “Opa” while the band played.
All proceeds benefit the church building fund and charities throughout the world. “Through hard work and dedication, Saints Constantine and Helen has assisted many organizations from Africa, to the Haiti relief effort, said Peter Fellios, parish council president. “It is the church’s goal to give back through celebration as well as philanthropy.”