By KATHRYN ACREE
North Shelby residents and other members of the Greek Orthodox Church are busy preparing for the Greek Food Festival held downtown at Holy Trinity-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church. This year’s event is set for September 29 through October 1 from 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. each day.
Run by over 100 parish volunteers at the seventh oldest Greek Orthodox Church in the country, the festival is a true cultural experience. Greek cuisine, live music and dancing highlight three days when every visitor gets to “be Greek.”
“I was raised in the church and danced each year,” said North Shelby resident and festival media contact Elaine Lyda. “Now our sons are part of the group and love it. The youth perform by age group on stage and invite the crowd to dance along with them.” Her sons, Nick, 12, and Luke, 10, dance each year.
As evidenced by the festival’s name, the menu is prepared by church members and boasts many Greek favorites. Souvlakia, Greek chicken, pastichio, gryos and Greek salads are part of the entrée selection. A crowd-pleaser each year is frozen pastichio, a dish of layered macaroni, meat sauce and béchamel sauce that can be picked up at the festival and baked at home, serving 9 – 12 for only $30.
The Greek pastries available might have long names, but think cookies and donuts topped with honey and nuts or the delight of powdered sugar or cinnamon— baklava, melomakarona, kourambethes and loukoumathes.
Festival Chairman Jimmy Cosmas, also an Oak Mountain area resident, said the amount of food prepared and sold gets bigger every year. “Last year we estimated we made 26,000 meals,” Cosmas said. “We have school groups come through and tour the church then order food. It makes a great mini-field trip for students!”
A drive-through is open for orders from 10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. each day and is responsible for 40 percent of the festival’s business.
The festival serves as a fundraiser for area charities. “Each year we look at charitable groups based on recent events,” Cosmas said. “This year we will donate to continued tornado relief efforts in our area. In years past we’ve donated to Hurricane Katrina relief or 9/11 relief efforts.”
Tours of the church cathedral are offered each day of the festival. “For many guests this is the first time they’ve been in a Greek Orthodox Church,” Cosmas said, “and we open our doors to them.”
Cosmas also noted that the festival was purposely scheduled for a Saturday when both Alabama and Auburn play away games. “We’ll have TVs on showing the games,” Cosmas said. “You have to give consideration to these things when you live where we do!”
Festival organizers are proud to announce a new parking area this year for attendees’ convenience. The former Liberty National Building parking deck one block away from the church at 20th Street South and Richard Arrington Boulevard will be open throughout the festival with free parking. At 5 p.m. each day the street alongside the church will be blocked off to allow for ease of foot traffic.
Holy Trinity-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church is located at 307 19th Street South in the UAB area. Admission to the festival is free, and food items are individually priced. A Greek market place will be open with vendors selling imported food, icons, fine jewelry and more. To pre-order food at the festival drive-through, call 716-3086 or fax 716-3085 for orders of 10 or more. Information about the Greek Food Festival is available at http://www.bhamgreekfestival.com.