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A touch of Greece in Albany

How much would a weekend in Greece run you? How about $3 a day?

That's what thousands are looking forward to in the St. Sophia's Greek Festival in Albany, where from May 14 to 16 the culture, food and spirit of Greece will be brought to the Capital District for the 41st time.

George Sokaris has been organizing the festival for the past six years, and knows better than most the time and effort that goes into every facet of the weekend celebration.

"This festival's a yearlong venture," he said, from the music to the dance performances to the food.

"The desserts that we made this year we started back in the beginning of March, and we've made about 30,000 pieces of dessert so far," said Sokaris.

And that, of course, is just the end of the one's meal. The festival will feature just about every facet of Greek cuisine, including a new addition for this year: calamari. Also plentifully available will be gyros, easily the most popular food at the event. More than 10,000 sandwiches were served at last year's festival.

Rather than the buffet-style, picnic table dining that is often seen at events of such size, the Greek Festival will feature sit-down dining with waiter service.

"This gives you the whole experience of sitting down, dining and listening to the sights and sound of Greece," said Sokaris.

Bands will play throughout the day and evening, dance troupes will show off traditional garb and Spartan warriors will even make an appearance.

Also a Grecian tradition, festivalgoers can shop at an Agora marketplace. Rides will be available for smaller children.

The festival usually sees 22,000 to 25,000 visitors each year, said Sokaris. Some are regular visitors, others have heard about it for years.

"There seems to be an insatiable appetite in this area for good Greek food," he said. "When you're there, it's just a lot of fun."

The Greek Festival will run from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, May 14; from noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 15; and from noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 16.

A $3 donation covers admission to the event. St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church is located at 440 Whitehall Road in Albany.

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