THIS WEEKEND marks the 67th edition of the Savannah Greek Festival. Organized by St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church, this beloved annual event brings big crowds to the Hellenic Center on Anderson Street.
Here are five reasons to go check it out:
For 67 years, the congregation of St. Paul’s has worked months out of each year to prepare for the annual Festival.
The vast bulk of the hard work in the kitchen is done by volunteer congregants, many of them elders with roots back in the home country, working on recipes handed down through the generations.
“We were making the lamb this morning, and I asked, where’s the recipe?” says Tommy Danos, a congregation member who helps organize the Festival.
“They just laughed and said, ‘Oh, it’s not written down anywhere.’ It’s just a little of this, a little of that, you cook it about this long.”
The tradition includes guided tours of the gorgeous St. Paul’s sanctuary across Anderson Street, usually led by parish priest Father Vasile Mihai. Tour times are Thursday at 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Friday 4:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 7:30 p.m.
The Greek Festival is the main fundraiser for St. Paul’s, who give back to the community in many ways.
“After the Festival, the Parish Council gets together and decides which local nonprofits to help support,” says Tommy Danos.
Recipients have includes the Association for the Blind, Liam’s Land, and Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT).
Danos says recently the Hellenic Center has also become a City of Savannah polling place.
“Greeks recognize the value of being good stewards of their community,” says Danos. “That’s why you see so many Greeks in public service and holding public office.”
Of course the main event is the delicious Greek food. Get a lunch or dinner combo plate or try items a la carte, such as lamb, pastitsio, spanakopita, dolmades, gyros, and much more. There are also sweet treats galore such as baklava and kourabiedes.
Check out the Greek market for great rates on hard-to-find delicacies and bulk items like imported Greek olive oil.
There are three groups that dance in the Hellenic Center at various times during the Festival; Zoe is the adult troupe; GOYA is the teen youth group troupe, and Ta Pethia (The Children) is, well, The Children.
They perform a wide range of traditional dances. Between performances, anyone can get out on the floor and try their hand, or feet, at the steps. There’s always someone on hand to show you if you can’t figure it out.
Zoe performs Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
GOYA dance Thursday at 6 p.m., Friday at 4 p. m. and 6 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Ta Pethia perform Thursday and Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.
While for many years patrons could fax in their orders – remember faxes? – this year marks the second year that you can go online at www.savannahgreekfest.com and order for pickup.
It goes like this: You make and pay for your order online, and pick a 15-minute spot to come by the Hellenic Center and pick up your order. You drive in the pickup lane behind the Hellenic Center and they give you your order. But – it’s not a “drive-thru” lane. You order in advance to have it ready.