By Jessica Forbes
Whether spanakopita, dancing, or stained glass is your thing, those and many more food items, activities, and traditions will be a part of the 55th annual Pensacola Greek Festival, held Friday, Oct. 10 through Sunday, Oct. 12.
Each year in October, Pensacola’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church opens its doors and grounds and invites the public to celebrate the heritage, culture and faith of the local Greek community during this three-day festival.
A multitude of Greek food (including dinners, sandwiches, coffee, and desserts), live Greek music, traditional folk dancing, and tours of the church are part of the festival, a widely anticipated fall event that typically draws upwards of 30,000 people from across the Southeast over the course of the weekend.
The festival usually does have the feeling of a getaway in Pensacola’s own backyard, which may be one reason so many look forward to the event. Large tents help facilitate the organizers’ goal of creating the atmosphere of a Greek taverna, with outdoor seating filled with people eating, socializing, and taking in normally just-turning temperate fall weather.
The Kostas Kastanis band will play both traditional and contemporary Greek music throughout the weekend, and youth dancers perform regularly each day, dressed in traditional costumes that represent various regions of Greece. Guests also have a chance to don Greek hats and costume items this year in a Shindig Photo Booth that will be on premises so revelers can take pictures and share with friends on social media (@pcolagreekfest and #pcolagreekfest, if you’re on the Twitter).
For those who feel the urge to cut a rug, as always, the dance floor is open between youth dance performances. And whether you arrive with an appetite or develop one from working it on the dance floor, the food available—with offerings such as traditional roast lamb, moussaka, spanakopita, Greek salads and desserts—is the primary reason to bring cash (enough for a few courses, for sure) along.
On top of the outdoor activities, several times each day, members of the church choir conduct tours of the church itself, providing visitors with information about the Greek Orthodox faith and the architecture of the church, which was completed in 1954, including its stained glass, carvings, and other iconography.
A portion of the festival proceeds will be donated to the Capstone Adaptive Learning & Therapy Centers and the church will also collect non-perishable food items for Manna Food Pantries as well as providing space to Guardian Ad Litem during the festival for visitors who would like to learn more about their program to protect children in the court system.
PENSACOLA GREEK FESTIVAL
WHEN: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10 and Saturday, Oct. 11; Noon-6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12
WHERE: Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 1720 W. Garden St.
COST: Admission is free