For 25 years, Tommy Pappas was content to be a behind-the-scenes guy at the Greek Festival.
But this year, the gregarious owner of Tommy's Diner has been thrust into the spotlight as a co-chairman of the festival, which will take place Friday through Monday, Aug. 29-Sept. 1, at The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 555 N. High St. in the Short North area.
Pappas' culinary contribution to the festival is a grilled lamb burger with feta, oregano, tomato, lettuce and red onion.
Granted, it's not revolutionary, but it should be a big hit, he said.
"It was my idea," Pappas said. "It was something different."
The lamb burger will be in addition to classic dishes patrons have come to expect from the festival, which is celebrating its 42nd year.
Among the fare are pastitsio, moussaka, souvlaki, stuffed grape leaves, gyros and the highly sought-after lamb roast.
Pappas comes from a long line of restaurateurs -- including Sam Harachis, Pete Strangis and Nick Soulas Sr. -- who have stepped into leadership roles at the festival.
"Tommy has a bigger-than-life personality," said Stacey Stathulis, spokesman for the festival.
"All of Columbus goes into his diner to eat at some point, it seems," Stathulis said.
"He works hard for the church and wants to see the festival offer the absolute best food product it can offer.
"I think that's what made him want to be co-chairman this year," Stathulis said.
Pappas is part of a trio of festival chairman that includes Debbie Geldis and John Bizios.
The Pappas family has been a strong contributor to the festival for a number of years.
Pappas' wife, Kathy, oversees pastry production. Their sons, Louie and Michael, who both are in the restaurant business, help out in the kitchen.
"We work hard -- everybody," Pappas said. "Not just me, but everybody."
But the festival isn't all about food. Patrons can join in on traditional Greek folk dances performed by costumed children and adults, accompanied by the Hellenic Singers, who sing traditional folk songs.
The Greek Festival also will offer imported merchandise, including clothing, handmade jewelry and accessories, as well as bath and beauty products.
There will also be fine art on display -- and available for purchase -- from a number of Greek painters, photographers and illustrators, some of whom belong to the parish.
The festival is supporting the Hundred Pump Project from Design Outreach and is donating a portion of admission proceeds to fund a water pump for a village in Ethiopia.
There will be an exhibit near the High Street entrance.
For the first time this year, the festival is using the Green Power Alternative Demonstrator, or GPAD, to power the stage and other outdoor equipment with solar energy.
The 25-foot trailer with 12 solar panels, installed by the Electrical Industry of Central Ohio, will be on display throughout the weekend.
Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, noon to midnight Sunday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday.
Tickets, good for all four days of the festival, are $5 and $4 for senior citizens.
Children younger than 12 can attend for free.