St. Michael Mediterranean Festival

Kafta

The St. Michael Mediterranean Festival has become one of the most popular events of the spring and the eighth annual event, which takes place on Saturday, May 7, will continue to share Greek and Mediterranean cultures with everyone in Southeast Texas.

From 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., St. Michael Orthodox Christian Church at 690 N. 15th St. in Beaumont will be the center of all activities with traditional cuisine from Greece and other Mediterranean countries along with a variety of unique ethnic goods on sale at the bazaar and diverse entertainment. Plus, admittance is free.

There will be a wide variety of food booths offering savory gyros, pastichio (baked pasta dish including ground beef and béchamel sauce), spanakopita (fillo dough filled with spinach and cheese), tiropita, Greek salad, Greek and Middle Eastern grape leaves, kafta (ground beef blended with finely chopped onion, parsley and spices), kafta sandwiches, awaamat (donut holes) served with a simple sugar syrup, falafel (deep fried patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans), and beef and chicken kabobs.

The Mediterranean Café will serve Middle Eastern Coffee (with or without cardamom), Greek baklava, melomacarona (honey-dipped cookies), kourambiedes (shortbread cookies), amygdalota (Greek almond paste cookies) and Athenian mud pie. The traditional baklava ice cream will also be sold outside.

The Pastry Shop, inside the church hall, is maintained by the Ladies Altar Society and will have an assortment of pastries including Middle Eastern baklawa (fillo dough filled with nuts and sweetened with attar syrup) gribee (butter cookies), koulourakia (Greek cookies, which are great for dipping in coffee), arros (savory date-filled cakes), namoura (semolina cake sweetened with attar), touatiyat (bite-sized date cookies) and khubaz (bread).

A variety of Mediterranean beers and wines will be available for purchase in addition to Miller, Budweiser, Saint Arnold and sparkling wine.

Inside the church hall, attendees can enjoy a traditional St. Michael’s dinner, or the Mediterranean Plate, including kibbee (extra lean beef and cracked wheat stuffed with sautéed meat, onions and pine nuts), cabbage rolls (meat, rice and spices rolled in cabbage leaves and cooked with lemon), green beans and a slice of pita bread.

T-shirts, fresh herbs, spices, potted plants and other ethnic items are just a few examples of what you can purchase from the Mediterranean without leaving Southeast Texas as well as the St. Michael Orthodox Church Cookbook, which consists of passed down authentic recipes.

There will also be plenty of music and dancing from the Golden Greek, George Haddad, Al-Juthoor Dabke Group, Olympian Dancers, Kefi Dancers and just after 4 p.m., Munir Pavez and the Al-Juthoor Dabke group will teach you how to Dabke.

Well, what is Dabke? It’s the national dance of several Middle Eastern countries and is performed at weddings and joyful occasions. The line forms from right to left and the leader heads the line, alternating between facing the audience and the other dancers.

There will also be a “So You Think You Can Dance” Mediterranean dance contest at 5:30 p.m. followed by a group Dabke, where festival-goers are encouraged to join, at 6 p.m.

Let’s not forget about the huge children’s area featuring camel rides, petting zoo, bounce house, cotton candy, popcorn and much more. Magician Chad Chesmark will perform three free shows beginning at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Those interested in the history behind the church can learn more by attending any of three Discovering Orthodoxy sessions at 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

“We are incredibly thankful of the generosity and support of the community in Southeast Texas and truly blessed to see this festival grow as much as it has,” said Med Fest organizer Georgia Vasilakis. “We welcome everyone to come early and stay late.”

Vasilakis, who is a first-generation Greek-American born in Galveston and a member of St. Michael for several years, worked in a coffee booth at previous festivals preparing Greek and Lebanese coffees. She is fluent in Greek and would take orders in her parents’ native language, instructing novices in enunciation. Each year, she also assists her mother in preparing traditional and delicious pastries for the festival from scratch.

They use family recipes cultivated over generations and only the freshest ingredients for every item made with pride by experienced hands. Her mother and father, Athina and Konstantinos Vasilakis, were born on the Greek island of Chios and moved to Lumberton when Georgia was just 1 year old. She said she was raised surrounded by Greek culture and loves that the festival encourages others to be part of that culture, if even just for the day.

A portion of the proceeds from Med Fest will benefit the CASA of Southeast Texas. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is a non-profit, non-governmental service organization that recruits, trains and supervises a diverse group of community volunteers appointed by the courts to advocate for abused and neglected children in the pursuit of safe, permanent homes.

Med Fest information can be obtained online at stmichaelmedfest.com; the St. Michael Mediterranean Festival Facebook page; Twitter @StMichMedFest; and Instagram @stmichaelmedfest. Any questions can be answered via e-mail stmichaelmedfest [at] gmail [dot] com.

Presale tickets for food, pastries, the children’s area or anything for sale can be purchased in advance online at universe.com; “browse events” for St. Michael Med Fest.

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