OPA! Annual Columbia festival returns to downtown with new look

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Last year, Columbia residents missed out an annual tradition due to COVID-19.

This year, it’s back. Or at least some of it is.

“It’s grown exponentially. It used to be maybe 20,000 people coming through 25 years ago,” said Niki Stewart, one of the chairs of Columbia Greek Festival. “Now, 120,000 come through over four days and four nights.”

Those involved with the 34th annual Columbia Greek Festival were ready for a full event. However, they decided to hold just a drive-thru due to a surge in COVID cases.

Even so, lines of cars showed up to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox today for people’s favorite Greek dishes.

“I have come every year and I love coming here. I love the food and all the assorted desserts that they have,” said Cheryl Reynolds, a Kershaw County resident. “It’s kind of disappointing to not have the sort of festival they’ve had in the past but I’m sure they’ll have it hopefully next year.”

It might just be a drive-thru event due to COVID, but it still means a lot of work for church volunteers. A lot goes on behind the scenes inside and outside before the food goes to people’s cars.

“That experience of getting back together, working together and catching up with each other. It inspired people to be together more. We were a little disappointed to not have the full festival this year but we’ll take what we can get and offer what we can offer,” said Father Michael Platanis, dean of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

Normally the Greek festival includes live bands and dancers, vendors and church tours.

Even though those are not here this yea, church volunteers continue to make and serve the popular food items.

“We do all the food, inside and outside,” Stewart said. “That’s where we take our pride because the Greeks love to feed everybody.”

It means a busy time for the volunteers, but they welcome as many as possible.

“Oh yes, I don’t want it to stop,” Stewart said. “The rain held things up a little. It didn’t hold us up, we had it ready. I hate that it rained but I hope for beautiful weather later.”

“Really all their food is very good but the baked chicken is my favorite,” Reynolds said.

While Niki has Greek ancestry and Cheryl has Macedonian roots, it is certainly not a requirement for coming out to Greek Fest.

“No, you don’t have to be Greek! You are Greek when you come,” Reynolds laughs.

The 4-day festival continues Friday and Saturday from 11 to 8 and Sunday from noon to 6.

Categories: Local News, Richland