Notis Tavlaridis showers his granddaughter with money at the Annual Cardiff Greek Festival. Photo by Chris Stone

Cries of “Opa,” Greek music and dancing and a lamb cooking on a spit greeted thousands of visitors Saturday to the annual Cardiff Greek Festival..

High temperatures and humidity didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for music, dance and abundant Greek cuisine, however. Festival-goers at the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church lined up outside a room offering a large variety of Greek pastries.

Adults and children played miniature golf on an eight-hole course designed and built by church member Dave Hulsing, who adds a new structure to the course each year. The golf course holes are based on Greek history and the Bible. Signs at each hole have lessons about the historical or biblical event.

But children’s dancing attracted the biggest crowds, who shouted “Opa!” in appreciation.

Organizers plan to donate 10 percent of proceeds toward construction of the St. Nicholas Shrine at the World Trade Center in New York, replacing a small Greek Orthodox Church that was the only house of worship destroyed Sept. 11, 2001. The festival comes just after the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Girls celebrate womanhood while dancing in colorful native dress. Photo by Chris Stone

Established in 1916, the church was obliterated when the South Tower fell. The Saint Nicholas National Shrine will be rebuilt a short distance away from its original location and will overlook the 9/11 Memorial.

Construction began recently and should take about two years to complete, according to The New York Times.

“This year, we are blessed to not only share our culture with the San Diego community, but also extend our support to provide a place of worship and peaceful reflection at the site of the horrific tragedy,” said the Rev. Father Michael Sitaras of festival hos Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church.

Festivities continue from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at 3459 Manchester Ave. Free parking is available at nearby MiraCosta College. Admission is $3, with children under 12 free. Around 10,000 to 15,000 people are expected to attend.

— City News Service contributed to this story.

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