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A Greek getaway: Upcoming Glendi features food, music, frivolity

MANATEE — If the recession has drained your travel budget, why not try a “staycation” this year at the Greek Glendi, a popular festival set to kick off Thursday.

The Greeks know how to have fun, and every year they share their music, food and frivolity under big tents at St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church. Last year, the church fundraiser attracted 15,400 people over a multi-day run, according to Lakis Pape, who works on the festival’s food committee and buys all the supplies.

This year, the event boasts a travel theme: “A Passport to a Grecian Holiday.”

The festival is slated to begin Thursday and continue through Sunday at the church, 7671 N. Lockwood Ridge Road.

“For the past 26 years, this festival has become Sarasota and Manatee’s most popular ethnic festival, where life in America meets the culture and ambience of Greece,” proclaimed a flier issued by the church.

Tuesday, the spacious kitchen in the dining hall near the sanctuary was jammed with giant kettles of food issuing great clouds of steam.

Chief cook Popi Ameres, 55, of Palmetto, brushed away hair damp from the heat to note that so far, it was going “very good.”

Ameres, whose family operates the popular Popi’s Place restaurants, said she had been planning the festival fare since the second week of January.

“My family runs the restaurants while I’m here,” she said.

The native of Leros, Greece, has been part of the kitchen crew all 26 years of the festival’s existence, she added.

Pape, 72, of Bradenton, was busy supervising deliveries.

The retired IBM international marketing manager, who moved here from Columbus, Ohio, said he ordered 2,400 lamb shanks, 900 half-chickens, 1,500 pounds of potatoes, and 120 gallons of milk for the rice pudding alone.

In addition to the feasting, the festival will offer a Greek marketplace, live music and dancers, children’s activities, and guided tours of the church.

The cost of adult admission is $4, and free for children younger than 12. Parking is free on the church grounds. For information, call the church at (941) 355-2616, or consult the Internet Web site

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.