EAST MANATEE -- The sensory overload of color, music, dance, food, and spirituality known as Greek Glendi opened Thursday at Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, 7671 N. Lockwood Ridge Road.
The festival continues daily through Sunday.
Maru Lummis was working behind the pastry counter, as she has for the past eight years, when a visitor asked for help in selecting among the many varieties of pastry.
She suggested either baklava or kataifi pastry.
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"With baklava, it's one and you're done," she said of the rich Greek pastry, with its honey drenched layers of filo pastry.
Or try the kataifi pastry, which looks a lot like shredded wheat.
"Just two, maximum," is all that the average person can handle, she said.
Somewhere between 15,000 and 16,000 visitors are expected at Glendi this year.
"We normally run out of everything," Lummis said.
Lummis' favorite time to visit Glendi is at night, when the lights are on, and the dancers are out on the floor in front of the stage.
"They wear the Greek outfit, jump in the air, and touch their feet," she said.
Samira Choueiri joined a line of dancers doing the Hasapiko to live music played on a mandolin-like string instrument, called a bouzouki.
As the bouzouki player plucked the notes faster and faster, the dancer's feet flew, trying to keep up.
"I'm out of shape," Choueiri said, after she took a seat.
George Skarpentzos of Parrish, who is retired from the American diplomatic service, served drinks at the bar.
"The red wine is good. We also have the white wine, and Greek beer," Skarpentzos said.
"For the real hard-core people, we have ouzo," he said. Ouzo is an anise-flavored aperitif.
"It's a dangerous drink. It will sneak up on you quick," he said.
Skarpentzos grew up in a Greek-speaking household, but didn't use the language much after leaving home.
Now he's taking Greek classes at the University of South Florida in Tampa and also learning to play the bouzouki.
Hours for Glendi are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Proceeds from the annual festival, now in its 29th year, have helped pay for improvements to the domed church. Tours are available.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1.