By 4pm on Friday afternoon, there is already a lineup of a dozen cars stretching across the parking lot beneath the spire of the little East Vancouver Greek Orthodox church dedicated to Saints Nicholas and Dimitrios. Beneath a giant white tent, whole lambs drip with fat on spits, pastries sizzle in hot oil, and clouds of pepper and feta tumble onto fried potatoes.
The Vancouver Greek Summerfest is a time-honoured East Van tradition, but this year it’s a little different. Instead of crowds full of running children and brightly coloured traditional dancers, patrons in medical masks hang out of their car windows to pick up bags of souvlaki, salad, hummus and spanakopita.
But COVID has not dampened the community spirit. Every other car seems to be met with a stream of greetings and laughter in exuberant Greek.
Harlay Jolay, a self-described Greek food enthusiast, drove all the way from Richmond to get her hands on chicken souvlaki, Greek salad, and a double serving of loukoumades—honey-soaked fried dough balls shaped like tiny eggs.
Jolay waxes poetic about the pastries and their fresh, crisp sweetness; she says she often makes several trips to Greek Summerfest every year because it is the only opportunity to get them. Having to don a bit of PPE is no deterrent.
“I wear pants here, don’t I?” she says, her eyes wrinkling into a smile behind her mask. “A mask is nothing!”
At the festival this year, patrons can order their food online and drive by to pick it up, eliminating any contact with staff besides a quick hand-off. The festival is open for two more days, Saturday, July 18 and Sunday, July 19 from 12pm to 8pm.
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