Record-breaking crowds attend the 44th annual Greek Food Fair Festival

DES MOINES, Iowa- The 44th annual Greek Food Fair Festival kicked off Friday with a record turnout.

About 1,700 people came to the opening day of the fair. Organizers say there were lines around the church and wait times of more than an hour.

Sunday is the last day of the fair. It runs from 11am to 2pm at St George’s Greek Orthodox Church, with Greek dancers performing at 12.30pm.

Years ago, the Greek Orthodox Church invited the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Demetrius to participate in the event. During the fair, members of the two churches share their cultures with the Des Moines community.

“When I first came here, the Food Fair drew me here, and then the community made me want to stay. I think everyone treats you like family,” said Iris McCarthy, a member of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Visitors will find that food means a lot to Orthodox cultures.

“We have a need to feed people. We are proud that everything we serve is handmade. Many of these are recipes from our great-grandmothers. They are simply passed on. There are no shortcuts in Orthodox culture, Greek or Serbian,” said Suzana Dobrosavljevi, a member of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

And this event is a huge fundraiser for both churches.

“This is what we use to keep our church alive. Everything from the upkeep of the church to the day to day costs of everything, so it means a lot to the community to make sure they’re having a good time. We are very honored that so many appear every year,” said Peter Caldbeck, a member of the Church of Greece.

Besides delicious food and sharing culture, the fair has a greater significance for members of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Most of them are refugees who came to Central Iowa after the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

“When we see other people coming who are not part of the Orthodox community, we get the feeling that we are accepted here. If you are a refugee, your new house should feel like home. And this certainly helps,” said Dobrosavljevi.

The next Greek Food Fair Festival will be the first weekend of June 2025.