The Greek Festival will take on a different appearance this year.

The Greek Festival will take on a different appearance this year.

The 44th annual event, will be held Labor Day weekend -- Friday through Monday, Sept. 2-5 -- at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral. It will have a redesigned layout with dancing and live music taking center stage in the parking lot.

Two trees infested with the emerald ash borer were felled and landscaping removed, freeing up space outdoors, said Stacey Stathulis, festival spokesman.

Entertainment will be moved to a tented area in the center of the lot. Food vendors will be lined up along High and Swan streets.

"It will look a little different," Stathulis said.

Nevertheless, patrons can expect the same celebration of Greek food, culture, music and faith, said John Bizios, festival chairman and president of the parish council.

The festival traditionally attracts 25,000 to 30,000 people to the church, 555 N. High St., Bizios said. Add to that the Short North Gallery Hop and the first Ohio State University home football game Sept. 3 and the area will be busy.

"It's been overwhelming to us," Bizios said of the crowds. "It's just an opportunity for us to showcase our culture, faith and the like with central Ohio and one of the opportunities we get as a parish family to work side by side with each other for four days."

Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and free for children 12 and younger. One ticket is valid for all four days of the festival.

Hours are 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, noon to midnight Sunday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday.

Bouzouki player George Karras will return to the festival, as will numerous Greek folk-dancing troupes and singers.

International arts and crafts will be on sale in the social hall of the church, where Greek pastries will be sold.

Familiar aromas of sausage, souvlaki, spit-roasted gyro meat and other traditional cuisine will fill the air. Saganaki, a dish that offers flaming cheese, will be among the bill of fare, as will the roasted lamb dinner -- a Greek festival staple.

Volunteers make most of the food from scratch, Bizios said.

"The concept is we're inviting people into our home," he said.

Stathulis said money raised during the festival not only goes toward the church's operating expenses, it also helps area charities. During the past five years, the church has given $280,000 to "hyper local" charities, Stathulis said.

"We're trying to give to groups with lower overhead and that have a direct impact on the central Ohio community," he said.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary