Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Too many cooks? Not before Greek fest

Published May 9, 2012 in the Commercial Appeal
A team of church members and volunteers started cooking months in advance to feed the 20,000-plus people expected to show up at this year's Greek Festival on Friday and Saturday at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.

Diana Mazas, who is 94, has volunteered in the kitchen for all 54 years the festival has taken place. To motivate her fellow church members, Mazas had her picture taken with a sign reading, "I was here, where were you?"

Bread workshops start in late February, the spanakopita begins in April, and pastries are made the week prior to the event, which is pretty much marked by nonstop cooking.

"There's a solid week when we're constantly in the kitchen. We don't stop until 6 p.m. the night before the festival, and that's because we have to start cleaning up," says Diane Kolopanas, this year's event chairman.

The plentiful and delicious food is what brings visitors to the Greek Festival year after year. Items available for purchase include sweet bread, assorted pastries, cheese plates, flaming cheese (yes, it really is on fire), spanakopita, Greek pizza (whole and by the slice), gyros, loukaniko (Greek sausage), moussaka, pastitsio, lamb and pork kabobs and loukamades (Greek sweet fritters).

Greek food has been influenced by food from around the world, and to that end, visitors can also sample Greek yogurt sundaes with honey and nuts, baklava cheesecakes and the Greek version of elote, or Mexican corn. The Greek version will be served off the cob in a cup with feta cheese, butter and Greek seasonings.

Food can be enjoyed in a number of ways at the festival. Participants can purchase items a la carte and enjoy them in the dining hall, outside under the large 80-by-270-foot tent, or in a small courtyard with a fountain.

There is also the option to enjoy a sit-down dinner of charcoal-grilled pork medallions, rice pilaf, Greek Salad, spanakopita, green beans and bread in the dining hall. It's even possible to drive through the festival and get menu items to go. (A full menu is available on the website:

While food is certainly the focus of the Greek Festival, there's also plenty to drink. Look for the Greek wine-tasting bar under the big tent. Other attractions include gift vendors, tours of the sanctuary, music from Orion Exprezz, dance lessons and performances by the Athenian Dancers, and belly dancing. There are several activities for children, and parents are encouraged to relax and enjoy a glass of Greek wine, and try a few appetizers while the kids play nearby.

The event is rain or shine since tents cover most of the area. There are several off-site parking sites with a shuttle service available as well.

More information

What: 54th Greek Festival,

Where: Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 573 N. Highland, (901) 327-8177

When: Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (rain or shine). (Food served until 9 p.m.)

Cost: Tickets are $3. (Prepaid tickets sold at the church for $15 include a meal inside the dining hall, salad and admission -- a savings of $5.)

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