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Get your Greek on
Savannah Greek Festival ups menu production to meet demand
Volunteers start cooking for the Savannah Greek Festival at the end of May

Imagine cooking — on your own, from scratch — 30,000 servings of a particular recipe.

Now imagine cooking a whole menu of recipes, 30,000 servings of each.

Now imagine cooking 20 percent more on top of that.

That’s this year’s new, improved, bigger and better edition of the Savannah Greek Festival, running Thursday–Saturday at the Hellenic Center of St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church.

“Everything you buy here is made by parishioners,” says Mary Catherine Mousourakis, one of a younger generation of congregation members who are slowly but surely taking on more responsibility for putting on the beloved annual event.

“We start cooking for the Festival at the end of May or early June in order to get everything done,” she says. “We cook four days straight just to get the baklava done.”

In some ways a victim of its own success, the Greek Festival has had minor issues in the past keeping up with audience demand for its delicious homemade Greek food, occasionally running out of key menu items by Saturday night.

With the 20 percent increase in production, that’s unlikely to happen this year.

Several other changes have been made to the Greek Festival specifically to make it more user–friendly to the throngs who crowd the Hellenic Center each year:

• Layout: “There’s been a change to the layout of the gym, so it’ll be an easier flow of traffic and you can get to the different areas a bit more readily than in times past,” says Mousourakis.

• Credit cards: “Credit cards will be accepted everywhere this time, not just in some areas. People always show up and say, ‘Oh, I don’t have any cash, do you have an ATM?’ Now they can use credit cards wherever they want.”

• More vendors in the market area: “There are more people signed up this year than last year, and there’s a greater variety,” Mousourakis says. “There will be more of the stuff that people usually buy, things like cheeses and olive oil, fresh things like that.”

While ostensibly a fundraiser for St. Paul’s, due to the gradually rising cost of food — and the Festival’s desire not to overreach their audience’s “ouch limit” — the Festival isn’t a huge moneymaker.

“It’s a community thing, really,” says Mousourakis. “It’s more about us being active in the community and showing Savannah what it means to be a Greek American.”

Mousourakis says the church remains open to suggestions from Festival goers.

“We always want to know if you lived in another city and that city’s Greek Festival had such–and–such. We want to know that.”

She says the festival tries its best to accommodate audience demand for particular menu items

“People ask every year when we’re going to offer galaktoboureko,” she says, referring to the tasty, custard–filled pastry dessert. “But we’re still trying to figure out how to fit that into our cooking schedule. I laugh every time someone says, ‘You guys should do this twice a year.’ Are you kidding?”

59th Annual Savannah Greek Festival

When: Oct. 14–16, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.

Where: Hellenic Community Center, 14 W. Anderson St.

Cost: Free admission Thurs. and Fri. until 4 p.m., $2 donation after 4 p.m. Thurs., Fri., and all day Sat.

To–go orders: Orders can be faxed to 912/236–7321