UPDATED SUNDAY, SEPT.9: The Dayton Greek Fest has waived the admission fee for the weekend due to the weather and is offering bulk sales of some of the festivals beloved treats to take and bake at home.
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The 60th annual Greek Festival is upon us, and it’s one not to miss.
This year’s three-day celebration features all of your old favorites in the food and booze categories — but with a couple new items.
But there’s more to love than just the food.
“One thing we have learned is that people love the consistency of our festival,” said Deb Pulos, public relations coordinator for the festival. “They know what they like, and have come to expect it from us year after year.”
So, what makes Dayton’s Greek Festival tick after 60 years? Three things — amazing food, devoted volunteers and the support and attendance of the community.
Don’t forget to check the weather to plan your perfect weekend.
>> INTERACTIVE WEATHER RADAR: Get the latest Dayton-area Doppler 7 Radar
A couple insider tips:
1. Take a tour: You’ll gain at least a small amount of appreciation for history and architecture with a tour of the gorgeous Byzantine-style church. The church, which was completed in 1985 after about 20 years of construction, is a sight to behold. The Annunciation Church draws members from Springfield, to Middletown, to Richmond, Ind.If you haven’t yet seen the beautiful church, this is the year to do it, so be sure to get on one of the tours they do throughout the weekend. I promise, you will be wowed!
>> PHOTOS: Tour the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
2. Take it from us: Get your Greek pastries early as many of them are sold out by Saturday night. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
3. Dance the night away: If you’ve ever attended a Greek wedding or other event, you know that it doesn’t matter whether you’re blood-related or not — by the end of the night, you’re dancing around with the entire room like you’re part of the family. Start out by watching the professionals, then join in.
4. For the 21+ crowd, get to know Greek wine and beer: Sample varieties of wine and beer from various Greek regions. A few stateside seasonal craft beers will also be available.
5. Find treasures: The Grecian Boutique in the Memorial Center is like walking into a bazaar on the streets of Athens: Find anything from specialty fine jewelry, to olive oil soap, to religious artifacts and icons.
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD
Members of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church have been working hard preparing the food, beginning with the delicious lasagna-like pastitso, grape leaf-wrapped dolmathes, and many of the baked goods, and continue to cook up until days before the event. Pulos estimates that about 90 percent of the food served at the Greek Festival is handmade, and trust us, these cooks know what they’re doing.
By the time the Greek festival opens, nearly 3,000 man hours of baking and cooking will have taken place.
A few newer treats to try include the Saganaki —a Greek version of fried cheese — will be a hot treat. If you need to cool off, the intriguing Ouzo Slushies can help.
The amount of food served over the course of the weekend helps tell the story of community, faith, volunteerism, commitment and the delectable eats that we all go crazy for each year:
• 3,480 pieces of pastitso (layers of Greek pasta, sauteed ground beef and topped with a rich cream sauce called bechamel)
• 2,160 pieces of moussaka (layers of eggplant and sauteed seasoned ground beef topped with bechamel)
• 9,500 dolmathes (grape leaves stuffed with a savory meat and rice filling)
• 21,000 loukamathes (honey puffs)
• 15,000 cheese and spinach pies
• 50,000 pieces of Greek pastry
• 12,000 Greek salads
• More than 20,000 gyros sold
• 7,000 lamb shank dinners
• 2,400 pieces of Greek pizza
In fact, 2.85 tons of pastitso, moussaka, and dolmathes will be made this year alone. It’s literally tons of food, and some of the best you can get in Dayton, Ohio all year long. If you prefer to go meatless, try the vegetarian pastitsio, spinach and cheese pies in phyllo dough, veggie gyros and more.
Pulos, who has been the public relations chairwoman for the festival for the last four years and has spent more than 30 years actively involved in the Greek Orthodox community in Dayton, estimates around 20,000 people came to the festival last year with one thing in mind — you guessed it, that unbelievable food.
“Our food is as authentic as you will find anywhere. Some recipes are not even written down. The people of The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church have been doing this for decades, many of them find their niche and perfect it. So many people come to our festival with empty containers that we fill with dolmathes, honey puffs, spinach and cheese pies. They freeze them for the coming months,” said Pulos.
If you are looking for authentic Greek food in a wonderful celebratory setting, look no further. It doesn’t get better than this.
WANT TO GO?
What: The 60th annual Dayton Greek Festival
Where: The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 500 Belmonte Park N., Dayton
When: September 7-9; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sept. 7 and 8, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 9
Cost: Free admission on from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 7; Admission for the remainder of the weekend is $2 per adult, which includes a free raffle ticket. Free admission for active military, veterans and children 12 and younger.