Santa Barbara's annual Greek Festival, a local tradition for more than four decades, is usually held in July, and takes place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday in beautiful Oak Park.Long considered to be one of the highlights of the Santa Barbara summer, the Greek Festival represents the only Greek cultural celebration of the year, and is, for many, their only chance to experience Greek culture up close.
Every year, volunteers come to help all the way from San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles. Because this is the only major Greek Festival in the area, crowds come from all over, drawing approximately 20,000 to 25,000 people over the course of the weekend.
The festival evokes the sights, sounds and tastes that define the traditional Greek way of life. Stroll through Santa Barbara's beautiful Oak Park, and experience the simple pleasures of life in a Greek village.
Dozens of volunteers staff their booths, creating a convivial, welcoming atmosphere.Festival-goers return year after year for the food to enjoy favorites like gyros and moussaka. And no Greek village would be complete without homemade pastries from YiaYia's traditional recipes: baklava, melomakarona, and kataifi are just a few of the sweet treats to you will encounter.
Listen to the distinctive sounds of the bouzouki and other exotic instruments played by authentic Greek musicians who perform traditional and popular songs.
Delight in the beauty of the elaborate costumes worn by performers as they share their carefully practiced steps and intricate dances with the enthusiastic audience.
Take advantage of a free Greek dance lesson, and enjoy participating in the same dances you would perform in the traditional villages of Greece.
Dance the afternoon away, eat a little (or a lot), shop in the Greek marketplace, relax and enjoy yourself under the oaks in the warm embrace of the best Greek culture has to offer.
Since its inception, the festival has been sponsored by the Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church. "The main point of the festival is to express the cultural heritage that we as Greeks bring here, but also to show that religion is a major part of our heritage," said Reverend Father Simon Thomas, pastor of Saint Barbara.
Admission and parking is free. They love animals, but for everyone's safety and enjoyment the Greek Festival does not allow pets.