|As it is most days in Palm Desert
California this time of year, the weather was wonderful this February 20th and 21st, 1999
for the 3rd Annual Saint George of the Desert Greek Festival. While most of the
country still lingers in winter, the sun was shining and thanks to the Hellenic Sounds and
all the hard workers at the festival, people were having a great time.
Saint George of the Desert was built just a few years ago and is the only Orthodox Church in the area. They are located at 74109 Larrea in Palm Desert California just east on Larrea from the corner of Lantana and Larrea, near Highway 111.( Tel. 760.568.9901.)
As you entered the festival you paid a modest $2.00 fee for which you received an official program with special festival event times, a listing of what was available food wise and descriptions of the different types of food.
The festival began at 11:00. The community at Saint George had a terrific idea for their festival, which I haven't seen at other festivals before: at 12:00, 3:00 and 5:00 members of the Saint George community held dance instruction lessons. I'll tell you now that there was always someone dancing at this festival and often there were three separate rings going at the same time. This was an outstanding way to make the non-Greek citizens of the Palm Desert area feel welcome and let everyone have a great time.
At 1:00 there was a dolmades cooking demo, complete with recipe and a recipe for avgolemono soup. There were also church tours and a dance group performing traditional mainland and island dances.
As with any time you get a bunch of Greeks together, there was plenty of food. The dinners were very reasonably priced at $7.00 ($8.00 for the lamb) and I must say the portions were large! The salad was very fresh and everything from the lamb to the pastichio was wonderfully seasoned. Other foods available were dolmades, tyropita, spanakopita, chicken and pork souvlaki, baked half chicken, gyros and loukaniko.
Let's not forget pastries. You name it and it was there: baklava, galatoboureko, karithopita, koulourakia, kourabiethes, melomakarona and of course, loukoumathes. Saint George is still a new community and I must say that although they may not have the numbers as some of the larger churches, they make up for small numbers in their dedication and this showed in all the hand made, fresh foods.
Top off the food with a Greek market selling everything from Retsina to jewelry and the festival was complete.