Dustin Toney – The Corsair
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church held its 51st Annual Greek Festival of Pensacola October 15th-17th at its Downtown location. Each year a portion of the proceeds are donated to a local charity and the remaining funds go to help the church with future improvement projects. This year the money went to Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida, who help families in need around the area. Admission to the event was, as always, free to the public.
The festival was worked mostly by volunteers and had a variety of events scheduled. The Kostas Kastanis band, a traveling group who play exclusively Greek music, performed for a large crowd as those willing were invited to dance. Youth dancers were also showcased entertaining guests with dance in traditional garb.
Food, which is one of the yearly festival’s main attractions, was served all day. Attendees were treated with traditional roast lamb, calamari, Greek salads & coffee, pasitiso and tiropita, just to name some of the popular items on this year’s menu. Also, a variety of baked goods were available to take home. Some of the food was made by the members of the church themselves.
“I love to watch the dancers, the pastries are to die for and the food is just so unique and unusual; You only get it once a year, so you had to come out,” said Christine Francis, a local resident. “I’ve come every year for the last twenty years. I came for the music and food.”
Another participate, Stella Seros, said, “I come every year. I am half-Greek and I’ve been a member of the church for several years. It’s a treat every time. I love the food and the wine.”
Businesses also came out for the event. Jan Browning with Soft Rock 94.1 was handing out free balloons to kids. Browning said, “We are a family station and we care about the community. We’ve been promoting on air because it is important to learn about other cultures. The food is the best and I’ve been learning how to dance today.”
The music and food were, of course, a big reason for guests to attend but they were not the only activities available.
Publicity Chair Maria Weisnicht said, “The people of Pensacola love everything Greek, so we go to share our culture and heritage, but also give people a chance to learn about our religion.” The line for touring the church extended down the block and waited patiently for the chance to learn about the church’s architectural design and religious art, along with the history of the Greek Orthodox faith. Reverend Peter Papanikolaou also gave sermons within the actual sanctuary.
“We are very proud of our heritage and the Greeks are very family and food orientated. It’s just a really nice celebration of life,” said Weisnicht.