Glendi started in 1989 as a means to expand the church. ‘The hall’ was just too small.
That’s when a Greek couple from Portland suggested a ‘Glendi’, the Greek word for party. Given the food festival had been successful in Portland and other regions, the parishioners felt they had a shot. They established that the money would always go to the betterment of the community rather than regular upkeep. With that foundation, they went for it.
But the first Glendi wasn’t everything they thought it would be. At around three or four in the morning, it began to rain. “It wasn’t sprinkles. It was torrential rains,” said Barbara Owens, a parishioner involved in putting on the festival. “All the sound equipment and everything had to be covered up. All the booths had to be moved into the hall, and the hall was much smaller than it is now.”
I was here for the first Glendi Festival, and it wasn’t sprinkles. It was torrential rains, and we were all running around with garbage bags over our head. I know I personally thought, “We’ll never do this again.”
Bobby Griovski, who was there during that first Glendi, recalled cooking over coals. “My son — his job was to take a broom and push [the water off] the tarps.”
Despite the pain of the first festival, the parishioners see it as the source of the success. Taylor-Rose Counts, a parishioner who had not been born during the first festival, says the story gets told every year, adding “a mythology to Glendi.” Father Lawrence Margitich had even suggested there would be no second festival if there hadn’t been that rainstorm. They were not prepared for Glendi to begin with, and a natural force stepped in to show them that.
From there, the parishioners made improvements to the Glendi formula, freezing baklava months ahead of time, cutting the chicken dinner (which was surprisingly not ‘the big sell’ as Griovski recalls), and extending the festival to two days.
Glendi’s diversity celebration is two-fold: it focuses on its cultural roots through food, yet it celebrates the richness of diversity by celebrating America — including this pocket of Sonoma County — and the joy of us all being here, present, and together.
Sonoma County’s Orthodox roots goes back to 1808, when Koskov of Russia decided to settle at Fort Ross. To this day, parishioners of Glendi travel to Fort Ross to bless the graves. While the church hosts a wide variety of ethnicities, Saint Seraphim’s roots are primarily Russian. Many of the original parishioners of Saint Seraphim Church emigrated after the Russian Revolution of 1917.