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Pocatello Greek Festival ready for return of food, dance

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POCATELLO — After a half-century of celebrating Greek culture, food, dance, and music — the annual Pocatello Greek Festival always draws a crowd of families.

At least it did before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the event was canceled in 2020. It’s back on in 2021 though, and Pocatello’s Greek Orthodox Church is excited be able to celebrate again.

“It’s a delightful family affair, it really is,” Parish Priest Constantine Zozos told EastIdahoNews.com. “I know many people were disappointed, as we were disappointed, that we could not have it last year. This, I think, is going to be better than ever.”

The festival takes place Saturday, Aug. 21, and will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church on 5th Avenue in Pocatello.

The event started as a simple way to raise money for the church, but it gradually morphed into a much bigger cultural event.

This year, the event will showcase a Greek ethnic dancing troupe and Greek music, which will be playing throughout the festival.

Greek ethnic dancing troupe performs
A Greek ethnic dancing troupe performs. | Courtesy Father Constantine Zozos

Admission to the festival is free. The fundraising comes through the sale of food.

A wide variety of Greek food will be available for purchase, a la carte. Offerings include spit-roasted lamb, Greek sausage made special for the event by a company in Salt Lake City, and gyros as sandwiches or salads.

“The food is delicious,” Zozos said. “The roasted lamb on the spit outside — unbelievable. I would say that this is the best Greek food in Idaho. I can say that.”

Traditional desserts, like baklava, will also be available, even in non-traditional presentations, like baklava sundaes.

All the food is made in the church’s kitchen, by church parishioners, then served by local “VIPs,” as Zoros called them. Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad and Police Chief Roger Schei are among the servers, as are representatives from Phil Meador Toyota and Cole Chevrolet.

But despite large groups looking for their Greek fix, Zozos said don’t be scared away by lengthy lines.

“Don’t be afraid of the line,” he said, “We have two food lines and we get people through as fast as we can.”

The festival, he added, is the largest ethnic festival in southeast Idaho, and serves as the city’s last big celebration of the summer. Money collected at the event will go to help local organizations and to further preserve and maintain the 106-year-old church, one of the oldest buildings in Pocatello and the fourth-oldest Greek Orthodox sanctuary in the United States, Zozos said.

“This is something people really look forward to, and we’re excited it’s back this year after not happening last year.”

Inside the Pocatello Greek Orthodox Church
Inside the Greek Orthodox Church in Pocatello. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

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