The 29th Annual Greek Glendi Festival kicks off at St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church today and runs through the weekend.
Florida’s largest authentic Greek Glendi Festival attracts as many as 17,000 visitors over four days. Each year more than 350 volunteers — average age of 70 — spend months preparing for the festival. The church volunteers have gathered and cooked and planned for this festival every year since 1984.
Husband and wife volunteers John and Olga Olnick, ages 99 and 95 respectively, the festival is an opportunity to spend time with fellow parishioners to prepare for and stage the event.
The grand opening ceremony begins at 11 a.m. today. Festival hours are 11a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The festival is open from noon until 8 p.m. Sunday.
To get ready for the event parishioners spend more than 5,800 hours preparing. Executive Chef Popi Ameres oversees the food preparation including 2,100 pieces of pita bread and 1,800 pounds of lamb shanks. These are just a few ingredients on the grocery list for the area’s largest and most popular Greek festival. The food coupled with traditional Greek bouzouki music and folk dancing draws visitors from all over Florida.
“We are in our 29th year with the festival and many of our volunteers have worked each one," said Denise Chimbos, glendi chairperson. "They are at the heart of the event and are excited about presenting a new menu of scrumptious Greek delicacies which have never been tastier! The festival grows each year and this should be our largest crowd ever.”
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For the Parish Priest the festival offers his congregation an opportunity to showcase their traditions and hospitality.
“If you appreciate the Hellenic customs, culture and traditions, our Greek Glendi offers something for all ages each day,” Father John Bociu, parish priest said.
Highlighting the event are tours of the church featuring unique mosaics created by world-famous mosaic iconographers Sirio Tonelli, fresco artist Leonidas Diamantopoulos and George Filippakis.
The ELLADA Band will provide traditional Greek music and St. Barbara’s own Hellenic Folk Dance Troupe dressed in traditional Greek costumes will entertain the crowd with dance performances scheduled throughout the festival.
Children will enjoy the Children’s Adventure Zone, featuring a rock climbing wall, bungee trampoline, graviton space ball, sports center bounce house and double slide bounce. Children’s activities are scheduled for Friday afternoon and all day Saturday and Sunday.
But most people will be focused on the food. Guests may enjoy all the classic Greek traditional recipes such as Souvlaki, Spanakopita, Lamb Shanks, Moussaka, Gyros and a variety of the most popular Greek coffees, wines and pastries. New to the menu is a Dolmathes Dinner including Greek style green beans, salad and a roll.
The marketplace, “Agora”, offers tasty Greek and Middle Eastern ingredients as well as jewelry, gifts and a variety of crafts. “The Bakaliko” store, selling a variety of packaged goods such as Greek olives, herbs and cheeses, will be open throughout the festival.
The 29th Annual Greek Glendi begins with a grand opening ceremony today at 11 a.m. Festival hours are 11a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The festival is open from noon until 8 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is $4 for everyone 12 and over. A shuttle bus is available Saturday and Sunday from the Trinity Church a half-mile North of St. Barbara on Lockwood Ridge Road.
For more information visit www.StBarbaragoc.org.