STOCKTON — The annual Greek Festival at St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church in Stockton celebrated its 59th birthday this weekend with all the usual trappings.

There was spanokopita. There was baklava. There was moussaka. There were other delicacies you might have difficulty pronouncing.

Also Sunday at jam-packed Saint Basil, a trio played Greek music with guitar, violin and bouzouki; all manner of Greek literature was available for purchase; and Greek art was widely displayed.

“It’s the biggest Greek festival I’ve been to,” said Ioanna Lekkakou, a native of Athens who has been living in California for the past 11 years.

Lekkakou was among several jewelry dealers at this weekend’s festival, though she offers more than just rings, necklaces and bracelets. She also can teach you to speak her native tongue.

“Ask me for Greek lessons,” said a sign at her jewelry stand, which is called Golden Cornucopia.

Lekkakou clearly knows her stuff as evidenced by her master’s degree and her Ph.D. in language. Once an elementary school teacher in Greece, Lekkakou said she was sent the United States to teach Greek by Greece’s minister of education. Anyone, she said, is welcome to sign up for the one-on-one online Greek lessons she teaches, said Lekkakou, who lives in Chico. She said she can have you able to converse in 1½ years. Complete fluency takes much longer.

“After the first class, you’ll be able to read,” she promised, adding, “Not understand, but read.”

Her main reason for teaching Greek is to keep her culture alive.

“For me, it’s sad to see generations of Greeks lose their language,” she said. “Language is the only way to preserve our culture.”

But her primary purpose at the weekend’s festival was to tempt buyers to purchase the handmade Greek jewelry she was selling at her stand. Design themes included the ocean — a golden swirl on a sea-blue background — and what she calls the “tree of life collection.”

“For us Greeks, it’s the olive tree,” Lekkakou said. “It’s related to our mythology.”

For more information on the jewelry or on the Greek lessons, send an email to Who knows? If you work hard on the language lessons, you might be able to order all of your food at the 2019 Greek Festival by using in the language of the old country.


Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or Follow him on Twitter @rphillipsblog.