WESTFIELD, NJ — NJ Greek Fest, the four-day long festival held annually by Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, kicked off Thursday night with plenty of entertainment, shopping, bounce houses, games and lots and lots of homemade Greek food.

Available to eat outdoors, under the big tent, in the church’s air-conditioned hall or to go, some of the popular foods availble at Greek Fest are gyros (pronounced “yee-ros”), grilled marinated souvlakia (skewers of pork or chicken), lamb shanks served with orzo, roast lemon chicken and potatoes, pastries, warm doughnuts dripping with honey syrup and — new this year — freshly made crepes with ice cream.

Patrons can wash it all down with beverages including Greek coffee, Greek beer and Greek wine.

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Throughout the festival, crowds will enjoy live music, traditional Greek dancing, cooking demonstrations and vendors selling goods imported from Greece, including art, jewelry and clothing. As many as 6,000 people are expected to visit Greek Fest this year, according to event co-chair Christina Colonias, with Friday and Saturday likely to be the busiest. About 300 volunteers make it all happen, she said.

More than the attractions, it’s the parishioners that make NJ Greek Fest so great, according to Peter Tarhanidis, president of the parish council.

“This is all about the philoxenia,” said Tarhanidis, using the Greek word for hospitableness.

“Greeks always greet strangers, travelers, with a big smile. It’s all about great fellowship and hospitality,” he explained.

“Greek Fest is good for Westfield because it gets the whole community together and it benefits the Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad,” added Master of Ceremonies Ted Vagelos. Also benefiting from a portion of the festival’s proceeds are Children’s Specialized Hospital and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, he noted.

Fox 5 meteorologist Nick Gregory, whose father once served as a priest at Holy Trinity, was on-hand Thursday evening to report on the festival and talk with fans.

“It’s great meeting the parishioners because they’re such nice people. And you’ve got to love the food,” he said. Gregory met his wife folk dancing, he said, and when youth from the church got up to dance he quickly joined in.

Held at 250 Gallows Hill Road, NJ Greek Fest continues on Friday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., then on Saturday from noon until 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m. Admission is free. Parking is available at Union County College, with free shuttles to the church. For more information, visit www.NJGreekFest.com.

Editor’s Note: NJ Greek Fest is an advertiser on TAPinto.net. To learn about becoming an advertiser, email jlieberman@tapinto.net or call 917-676-2302.