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OPA! Glendi opens with traditional food, music and more

EAST MANATEE -- A salute to the very foundations of western civilization and democracy opened Thursday at St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church.

But for the most, Greek Glendi was not about anything so serious. It was about the food, the friendship and the music.

Now in its 27th year, Glendi continues through Sunday on the church grounds, 7671 N. Lockwood Ridge Road. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

The festival opened Thursday under rainy skies, but organizers are accustomed to that and have everything under tents, said co-chair George Karabatsos.

Anastasia Matthews was serving Greek pastry in one of the tents, and said anyone who attends the festival should try to catch one of the traditional dance performances. Senior and junior groups dance at various times each day.

A band called The Greek Company was playing traditional music Thursday. Maybe it was the dueling bouzoukis -- a couple of pear-shaped stringed instruments with long necks -- that spontaneously brought dancers out onto the concrete floor.

Among those who came for the opening festivities were Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant and her daughter, Robin Bryant.

They started their day by sampling some of the Greek coffee, which they described as “very sweet and very good.”

Peter Apolos has served as master of ceremonies for Glendi for more than a decade, and he said he most enjoys seeing friends come to the festival year after year.

Glendi reflects the Greek culture, which is warm and friendly, he said.

Other attractions include the authentic Greek food, everything from succulent gyros of lamb and beef to pork souvlaki and falafel, and all those pastries: baklava, traditional Greek cookies and more.

For anyone who has never toured St. Barbara with its religious icons, that’s well worth a stop, too. Proceeds from Glendi go to church improvements.

Admission: $4. Information: (941) 355-2616.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.