From food to entertainment, what to expect

Opa! If you love Greek food, you need to put the Memphis Greek Festival on your to-do list this weekend.

The festival is May 20-21 at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 573 N. Highland St.

The festival features a variety of Greek food options, including spanakoka (spinach pie), gyros, souvlakia (pork tenderloin), moussaka (eggplant casserole), pastitsio (Greek lasagna), marinated lamb chops, baklava and more than a dozen Greek pastries. Each dish is handmade with love by a small army of volunteers.

For 63 years, the congregation of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church has shared its love for the Greek Orthodox faith, heritage, food, music and culture with the people of the Mid-South through this annual two-day event.

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This family-friendly festival includes activities such as live music, Athenian dance performances, sanctuary tours, a marketplace and bouncy houses.

But it’s the Greek fare that has many coming back year after year.

Madeleine Donnelly speaks with Lydia Mims as they prepare spanakoka for the Memphis Greek Festival on Saturday, March, 2022, at at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Memphis.  The festival runs May 20-21, but food preparation began in January.

Community and camaraderie

Preparations start months in advance. They have to when more than10,000 attendees traditionally come out for the traditional Greek fare this event is known for.

The church hosts cooking workshops starting as early as January.

Volunteers prepare spanakoka for the Memphis Greek Festival on Saturday, March, 2022, at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Memphis.  The festival runs May 20-21, but food preparation began in January.

Dozens of trays of spanakoka, each yielding about 100 pieces, are baked on spanakoka days. On macaroon days, the kitchen smells of coconut. On the days when kourambiethes are baked, tables are lined with paper and the cookies are given two heavy coats of powdered sugar.

Basically, anything that can be frozen is prepped in advance.

It is a labor of love that is instilled in family traditions and a sense of community.

Maria Moore has attended the festival every year since the first one. “I think I was 3 years old and in the crib when my parents started bringing me,” she said. “My mother and her ladies group were part of the group that started it.

Madeleine Donnelly puts spanakoka in the oven for the Memphis Greek Festival on Saturday, March, 2022, at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Memphis.  The festival runs May 20-21, but food preparation began in January.

“For our culture, it’s a sense of family. My church family is my family, ”Moore said. “It’s important to learn and pass on our recipes and our culture. I hope my grandkids and great grandkids remember – the things that my Yia-Yia passed down. ”

Madeleine Donnelly has been attending the workshops since she was a young child. Decades later, she now runs the spanakopita workshop (that was also run by her own grandmother), using a recipe that was from the kitchen of her great-grandmother.

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