Greek Food Festival unites cultures in Birmingham

Locals gathered to celebrate culture and enjoy great food at the 40th annual Greek Food Festival. Photo by Natalie Bennie

By Natalie Bennie |

The smells of roasted lamb and honeyed pastries permeated the air as hundreds of people gathered in downtown Birmingham Sept. 27-29 to attend the 40th annual Greek Food Festival.

Sponsored by the Holy Trinity-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Cathedral, homemade Greek dishes and cultural events made for a great Saturday afternoon. Attendees ate delicious gyros, Greek chicken and baklava.

While enjoying their meals, visitors wandered into the community hall to hear lively music and watch traditional Greek dances performed by costumed children. Curious guests who ventured to the outside grill were allowed to see the cooks in action and taste the fresh lamb.

The Birmingham community has enjoyed the Greek festival every year for 40 years. The festival is about bringing the community together through good, homemade food. The event draws people from all walks of life; the crowds were diverse in age and ethnicity, yet united by a common love of Hellenic victuals. The volunteers running the different stations ranged in age from 8 to 70, and all come to the festival for their own reasons.

Former Alabama State Representative and current manager of Jefferson County Tony Petelos was one of several county officials in attendance.

“We have been cooking on this grill for 20 of the last 40 years. Everybody has the same job every year,” Petelos said. “We all work the grill, and those folks at take-out always work take-out. Everybody knows their job, so it works very smoothly.”

Petelos said the interesting thing about the people working at the grill was that they were all professionals in different fields, but still worked together as members of the community.

Not only does the festival provide an opportunity for great food and dancing, it also benefits the Birmingham community. The festival started as a fundraiser for the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, but now the church donates part of the proceeds to charities that serve to better the lives of those in need in the community. Next year, make the time to grab some friends and take your appetites downtown for an unforgettable experience.

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