Looking for a family cultural activity? How about one with arguably the best Greek food in town, only available on one weekend each year? The spanakopita and mousakka will be plentiful at the fiftieth annual Seattle Greek Festival and bazaar Sept 16-18, 2011. The fest attracts up to 20,000 people to a huge tent in front of the St. Demetrios Church and Cultural Center, located in the Montlake neighborhood between Capitol Hill and the University District. Kids and parents alike will love the authentic flavors of gyros, barbecued lamb, and dolmathes (grape leaves stuffed with rice and spices) served as la carte portions big enough to share. The food is definitely a major highlight. Exchange cash for tickets near the festival entrance, trade tickets for delicious food, grab seats at a communal table, and dig in!

Touring the Saint Demetrios church is a beautiful experience. It’s a stunning space and an integral part of Greek culture in Seattle. Art loving kids will enjoy seeing all of the Byzantine-style details and tour guides end with a question and answer session. The festival hosts tours Friday, Saturday and Sunday nearly every hour, but you can go to the website to find a time that works for you.

Adorned in traditional costumes, the award winning St. Demetrios Greek Folk Dancers perform on a center stage throughout the festival, and wee ones from the audience are invited to join in on the fun. More than 120 dancers from pint-sized to full-grown appear over the three-day celebration.

After dancing off dinner, kiddos will gravitate towards a bounty of made-from-scratch Greek pastries including kourambiethes (almond cookies dusted with powdered sugar), loukoumades (doughy sweet puffs), and classic baklava. After dinner, wander through the courtyard connecting the tent to the church and browse jewelry, Greek deli items, imported arts and crafts, and clothing in a pop-up thrift shop/boutique.

The proceeds from the festival go primarily to help children with cancer through the Camp Agape, the Boyer Children’s Clinic, and Kids ‘n Cancer. Indulging in amazing Greek food and seeing talented entertainment now comes with a fabulous cause.

Select street parking is available, and a free shuttle bus service delivers festival goers parked at Seattle Prepatory School parking garage and Montlake Elementary. For families parking at Prep, the shuttle comes to 11th Avenue East in front of the garage entrance. For those parking at  Montlake Elementary School, the shuttle picks up at McGraw street. The shuttle arrives every 20 minutes Saturday and Sunday.

– Sara Billups