Eat, drink and dance your way around the world through 7 international festivals

Photo courtesy of the Sacramento Greek Festival
Sample loukoumades, aka fried dough doused in honey, at the Sacramento Greek Festival

From Scandinavian meatballs to cinnamon babka, and from Brazilian drumming to Greek circle dancing, here are seven fun ways to celebrate the diversity of Sacramento’s communities.

Sacramento Scandinavian Festival

Aug. 19 If your idea of eating Scandinavian food is lining up for a plate of Swedish meatballs at Ikea, you’re in for a treat at this 34th annual festival at East Sacramento’s Scottish Rite Masonic Center, where a veritable smörgåsbord awaits. Sample the Viking-on-a-Stick (a giant beef meatball deep fried like a corn dog), as well as Danish sausages and open-faced shrimp sandwiches. For dessert, there’s limpa (sweet rye bread) and shortbread spritz cookies. Post-feast, check out the model of a Viking warship, built by local Norwegian heritage club Sons of Norway Sacramento, which stands proud amid a village full of Viking re-enactors, as well as performances by the El Dorado Scandinavian Dancers. $5 (Free for kids ages 12 and under). 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Scottish Rite Masonic Center. 6151 H St. 481-0373.

Brazilian Day Sacramento Street Festival

Aug. 27 The theme of Sacramento’s fourth annual Brazilian Day is bossa nova, turning the street in front of the MARRS building into midtown’s very own little Ipanema, with musical performances by groups like La Samba Sacramento, which will present the traditional art of Brazilian drumming and the capoeira-style dance Puxada de Rede, about a man lost at sea. Grab a plate of Brazilian fare like moqueca de bacalhau, a fragrant cod stew with tomato, onion, garlic and coriander, or stop for a drink on the patios of nearby LowBrau and Azul as you listen to local band Leo Brazil perform bossa hits, from Gilberto to Jobim. Free. 12-6 p.m. 20th St. between J and K St. 588-5463.

Hear the drums at Brazilian Day Sacramento Festival (Photo courtesy of festival)

Jewish Food Faire

Sept. 10 If you’re eagerly anticipating the opening of downtown Sacramento’s Solomon’s Delicatessen, co-founded by Jewish Food Faire organizers, this 40th annual festival offers a chance to get your fill of pastrami on rye in the meantime. You'll find other delectable kosher items like babka, hamantaschen (jelly cookies) and blintzes baked by the members of the Congregation Beth Shalom. Make up a lunch of deli classics like matzo ball soup, bagels and lox, or—if you're really schmaltzy—chopped liver. Dance along to music from the congregation’s band, which will be playing tunes ranging from traditional Jewish spirituals to Leonard Cohen songs and the reggae beats of Israeli artist Matisyahu. Free. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Congregation Beth Shalom. 4746 El Camino Ave. Carmichael. 485-4478.

Mediterranean Food Festival

Sept. 16-17 At this feast-ival in West Sacramento you can sample Mediterranean cuisine from the cradle of civilization, but before digging into the diverse food selection, work up an appetite by learning how to perform the dabke folk line dance to the classical and contemporary stylings of Middle Eastern vocalist Nader Zaki, or get a henna tattoo and check out a fashion show featuring traditional cultural costumes from Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. There will be plenty of chicken kabobs, roasted lamb and gyros to eat, along with zalabieh, fried doughnut-like desserts dusted with cinnamon and sugar. $3 (Free for kids 10 and under). Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. 12-7 p.m. Holy Virgin Mary Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. 3060 Jefferson Blvd. West Sacramento. 955-4736.

Sweets abound at Sacramento's Armenian Food Festival (Photo courtesy of festival)

Armenian Food Festival

Oct. 21 One of Sacramento’s oldest cultural fairs, the Armenian Food Festival is celebrating its 70th year of showcasing the cuisine of the small West Asian nation. But food is only half the fun. While you're digging into lamb, rice and beef kofta, or stuffed grape leaves, listen to internationally known violinist Meruzhan Margaryan, as well as an instrumentalist who plays the duduk, a traditional Armenian apricot wood flute. For those eager to participate, the festival will be holding Armenian circle dance lessons, and afterward you can refresh with a bottle of imported Kotayk pale lager or a piping hot demitasse of Armenian coffee. $5. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Greek Hellenic Center and Hall. 614 Alhambra Blvd. 265-3567.

Aloha Festival

Oct. 7 Sacramento’s annual celebration of Pacific Island and Hawaiian cultures will once again be on full display at Cal Expo. Festivalgoers can feast on foods like Kalua pulled pork, Spam masubi, huli huli chicken, poke and shaved ice; join workshops that teach everything from playing the ukulele to threading flowers for delicate leis; or visit the Ku’e Project booth to potentially discover ancestral ties to the islands. Youngsters can head to the Keiki Korner to dress-up in tribal garb and listen to island tales. Free ($10 parking). 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Cal Expo. 1600 Exposition Blvd. 486-6399.

Learn the art of lei making at the Aloha Festival (Photo courtesy of festival)

Sacramento Greek Festival

Oct 6-8 The Sacramento Greek Festival will be held outside the newly expanded Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church across from McKinley Park, to capture the spirit of a Greek panigiri, or outdoor festival. Chow down on some traditional Greek eats like spanakopita, patitsio (a lasagna-like baked pasta dish) and baklava. If you’re in the competitive spirit, there will also be an eating contest featuring loukoumades (fried dough balls doused in honey). Try your hand at Greek dancing during free lessons, and sip Greek beer or imported wine while listening to strolling bouzouki musicians and Mythos, a popular Greek-language band. Art collectors take note: celebrated local artist Gregory Kondos will be selling signed prints of his serene, blue-skied California landscapes. $5. Fri. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat. 12-10 p.m. Sun. 12-8 p.m. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. 600 Alhambra Blvd. 443-2033.

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