TGIF Greek festival welcomes revelers of all backgrounds Aug. 26, 2015 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! 2011 August 27_ CTY Greek 11_ 31st annual Greek Festival at McCoy Pavillion August 28 Ala Moana Beach Park. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Year after year, Honolulu residents embrace the food, music, dancing and community feeling of the annual Greek Festival. No Greek heritage is required: After a few bites of a gyro or moussaka, perhaps a sip or two of ouzo, returning patrons and first-timers often find themselves in a circle, dancing the kalamatianos in the style of Anthony Quinn as Zorba the Greek. Quinn is not a bad example for the inclusive feeling of the Greek Festival. The actor was of Mexican heritage. And while Honolulu’s Greek Orthodox church, sponsor and beneficiary of the festival, numbers its members in the hundreds, as many as 20,000 patrons have been known to attend the event. 34TH ANNUAL GREEK FESTIVAL Where: McCoy Pavilion, Ala Moana Park When: Noon-9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday Cost: $3; free for ages 10 and under, active members of the military and their families Info: GreekFestivalHawaii.com, fb.com/greekfestivalhawaii This, the 34th year of the two-day Greek Festival at McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Park, marks the 50th anniversary of the Ss. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Pacific in Hawaii. Radio personality Austin Vali is the longtime volunteer chairman of the event; he says finding a new chairman is the only way he can retire from the position. Vali says the church’s 63 families band together to put on the festival. Each year, the festival grows a bit. Two new food booths will be added to the lineup in 2015, serving crisp calamari rings and Greek pizza with tzatziki sauce made of feta cheese, Kalamata olives and basil. Greek cooking classes will offer a deeper appreciation of Greek specialties. Eating, dancing, cooking, stops at the Greek Taverna, more eating and more dancing are top of the list each year. Look for food booths serving spanakopita (a flaky spinach pie), gyro sandwiches, moussaka, pastitsio, Greek chicken, souvlaki, loukanika (Greek sausage), Greek salads, a Greek vegan meal and loukoumades (the Greek version of malasadas), plus ouzo sorbet and Greek pastries. Many versions of Greek coffee and tea are on the menu, as are lemonade and honey-mint coolers. The Greek Taverna will serve Greek beer, ouzo and retsina wines. The Nisiotes dance group will perform each day at 3 p.m., demonstrating how the steps should be done when Greek band Mythos takes the stage playing bouzouki, baglama, doubelekai, bass, guitar, percussion and keyboard. The Bay Area band is well known on the West Coast. "This is their first time to perform in Hawaii. We are prepared for what we know will be a need for a larger dancing space," Vali says. Shopping is also a possibility, between dances and drinks: The fest’s Greek Market will sell deli foods, including Cretan olive oil, olives, herbs, grape leaves, cheeses, jams and pastries, in addition to aprons, Greek captain hats, shirts, jewelry, incense, icons and, of course, the annual Greek Festival T-shirt. Greek history in the islands reaches back to the era of whaling ships, Vali said. Scattered Greek sailors found their way to the islands on whalers and trading vessels after 1830. By the late 1870s, 40 men from the small Mediterranean country had settled on the Big Island and Oahu. They supported the monarchy, Vali relates, and participated after the overthrow in the movement to restore the queen to the throne. Imprisoned and suffering business losses for these activities, they reluctantly accepted annexation. By World War II, 200 men, women, and children had formed a Greek community. Migration increased after World War II and the Greek Orthodox cathedral was established. Vali calls the cathedral one of the most diverse Greek churches in America. "It reflects the culture of the islands," Vali says. "Our priest, Father Alexander Leong, is Chinese, with a Japanese wife, but he speaks and chants like a true Greek. The congregation is a mix of many ethnic backgrounds." Regardless of background, everyone is welcome to McCoy Pavilion, where the common cause is a love for Mediterranean food, drink and music. Previous Story Pulse Top 5: Henry Kapono, Addiction nightclub Next Story Movies: 'A Walk in the Woods,' 'American Ultra'