Hana Frenette, News Journal correspondent 6:58 p.m. CDT October 7, 2014
The Pensacola Greek Festival will celebrate its 55th anniversary this year.
The event started out as a small group of people cooking dinner to raise money for the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, and has turned into a highly anticipated, annual three-day festival.
“I just think that it’s something unique that Pensacola does,” said Maria Weisnicht, chair of communications for the festival. “There really isn’t that much traditional Greek food available in the area, so people really enjoy getting to experience it at the festival.”
The festival offers a schedule of events including dance performances, bands playing traditional Greek music and tours of the church. And, of course, dinner.
“We don’t change a whole lot from year to year,” Weisnicht said. “Although we did add a lamb shanks dinner for this year.”
In addition to the lamb shanks, the menu offers an extensive list of traditional, homemade dishes like Pastitso, a layered, baked macaroni with tomato cinnamon meat sauce and a béchamel cheese drizzle over top.
There are salads, sides, gyro sandwiches and an easily accessible children’s menu.
“I know a lot of people are really passionate about getting a gyro, and the desserts are always a huge draw,” Weisnicht said.
The line for dinner that guests must wait in is usually fairly sizeable, and although it often looks daunting, it doesn’t take as long as it seems it might.
However, a second dinner line has been added this year, which will cut the waiting in half. There also will be a separate line for pastries and desserts, which will be much more efficient for those who simply want a dessert without waiting in the longer dinner line.
The event not only serves a plethora of food, it helps raise money for food for the less fortunate.
“We’re doing a food drive for Manna as well,” Weisnicht said. “We’re going to have a photo booth set up with fun Greek hats and scarves and people can take their picture in it, and upload to it social media for free, but if they want an actual print, it will be $3 and we’ll be donating that to Manna as well.”
Although the event is a family-orientated celebration of Greek culture, heritage and food, it also helps support the United Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Florida charity.
The event started with charity 55 years ago and is still going strong with it now.
“Some of the people on the committee are 70 and 80 years old, and their parents were some of the people that originally started the festival,” Weisnicht said. “When everyone is preparing for the festival, there are mothers and children, many generations of families, all running around helping with this and that — it’s really a neat thing to see.”
In addition to the regular festival schedule and dining endeavors, Mayor Ashton Hayward will be giving a proclamation at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“The Greeks have really been in Pensacola for a long time, and the mayor is just going to speak about the contribution of their heritage and culture to Pensacola,” Weisnicht said.
Stop by the festival for some food, get your picture taken in the photo booth while helping a good cause, and immerse yourself in all things Greek.
Want to go?
- WHAT: 55th annual Pensacola Greek Festival.
- WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
- WHERE: Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Pensacola, 1720 W. Garden St.
- ADMISSION: Free. Lunch and dinner menu items priced at $3 to $15 each. Desserts and baked goods priced at $1 to $6 each. Beverages including coffees, soft drinks, bottled water and beer and wine by the glass or bottle are available for purchase.
- DETAILS: 433-2662, or visit www.pensacolagreekfestival.com.