The annual Savannah Greek Festival is one of the most beloved and anticipated events of the year. Thousands of hungry visitors will line up for a chance to sample a number classic Greek specialties like gyros, koulourakia, and spanakopita, as well as experience Greek culture through music and dance. The traditional event is reliably the same each year, but seems to draw bigger and bigger crowds, with this year having the potential to be the largest yet.
“The basic set up has been the same—don’t fix it it if it ain’t broken,” said Tommy Danos, co-chair of the Greek Festival. “But, it has certainly grown over the years. There is a lot more food than we used to have and, of course, in 69 years it’s grown over-all by a huge margin, especially when you consider it started out as a bake sale.”Get Savannah arts & culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and food newsletters
With the festival’s ever-growing popularity, the logistics of producing enough food can be daunting, but the volunteers and cooks always seem to get it done. It takes 20-to-30 people just to prep the baklava. “The biggest thing is shifting a homemade recipe, a family recipe that came over from Greece many years ago, from a family size portion to a festival size portion,” said Danos. “You have to increase everything by 50 or 100 times. That is a little challenging. When you look at a pan of spanakopita, the amount of ingredients are typical, but when you’re doing a hundred and sixty pans of it, it takes a lot of ingredients.”
Some of the most popular dishes in the past were baklava, dolmades, and spanakopita. The food can go fast, so try to get some while you can. “It seems like there is something different each year that we run out of first,” said Danos. “In these last few years we’ve been running out of everything. It’s just a matter of when.”
For entertainment, traditional Greek music will play continuously all day, and three different dance troupes will perform throughout the three days: a children’s group (Ta Pethia), a teenage group (Goya) and a seasoned adult group (Zoe).
Shoppers can purchase hard-to-find Greek items like cheeses, olive oil, coffee, and grape leaves at the Bakaliko (Greek grocery store), or buy gifts at the Agora (market place) such as jewelry, cook books, religious items, and even a Greek sailor’s hat.
Part of the mission of the festival is community outreach, so guided tours of St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church will be offered.
“Throughout the festival, Father John Wallace who is our new priest, this will be his first Greek Festival with us, he will be at the church giving the tours, talking about the building itself, and of course, faith and the Orthodox Christianity,” Danos explained. “There’s a big discussion now about all the converts that are coming to the Faith, that are discovering it. St. Paul’s, our church, has been completely renovated. It’s just a great sight to see.”
Those who may be too busy to enter the festival can visit savannahgreekfest.com, order online and pay for their food, and pick it up at the side entrance at a designated time. There is no excuse to miss out on Savannah’s most delicious festival.