With joy and great excitement, the members of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church open their arms to the public for Greek Festival 2011, Sept. 22-25.

Thirty-six years ago, the church began sharing with Southern Arizona its hospitality, food, music, dance and faith. Today, this annual event thrives because of the efforts of many members of the local community.

“The festival was started by a number of ladies who wanted to raise extra money for the church by selling handcrafted items and food. It’s turned into a major Tucson event. Last year, more than 13,000 people attended over the four days,” said Susan Parker-Hotchkiss, who co-chairs the event with George Makris and Jimmy Gekas.

Nancy Jimmerson is the event chair. She and the co-chairs will oversee the more than 100 volunteers who will man the event during its four-day run.

Highlighting the festival’s many family-friendly activities are live Greek music, dancing and food. Among the more popular Greek dishes are spanakopita, or spinach pie; lamb gyros, and saganaki, or flaming cheese.

There also are cooking demonstrations every day of the festival so attendees can learn to replicate the festival’s pastries and distinctive meals at home. The demos are the brainchild of Father Earl Cantos, the pastor of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church.

“The demonstrations, along with lectures from parishioners and educators, will stimulate your mind, tummy and ears,” said Parker-Hotchkiss.

The festival will take place at the St. Demetrios Hellenic Center, 1145 E. Fort Lowell Road in Tucson (between First Avenue and Campbell). Free parking and shuttle service is offered Friday through Sunday at the Amphi Plaza parking lot at First Avenue and Fort Lowell. Additional shuttle service will be offered on Saturday only from Salpointe Catholic High School, on Mountain one block south of Glenn.

A four-day pass is available for $5. Admission is $3 for children. Or see the ad in today’s Explorer for free admission tickets to the festival on Thursday or Sunday.

On Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m., senior citizens ages 60 and older will be admitted free. Active-duty military members also will be admitted free throughout the festival by showing their identification card.

For more information, including a complete schedule of events, visit www.tucsongreekfest.com.

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