Greek Fest returns to Bearden

Tracy Haun OwensWest Knoxville

How do you know it’s almost fall in East Tennessee? The Vols are out in force, the ceramic pumpkins are perched outside of your grocery store, and the parishioners of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bearden are busily preparing for the annual Greek Fest, to be held Sept. 15 -17.

It’s the 38th annual festival, which celebrates Greek culture by sharing authentic Greek foods, arts and goods with the rest of the community, as well as the Greek Orthodox religion and the church itself.

Great food is plentiful at Greek Fest.

The festival is expected to draw between 12,000 and 15,000 people. The church’s roomy campus at 4070 Kingston Pike is turned into a marketplace, open-air restaurant and performance area. Patrons can enjoy gyros, Greek pizzas, stuffed grape leaves, and other delicacies at communal tables under tents. There they can also watch the traditional and modern Greek dancing (done by the youth of the church) and enjoy live traditional music.

The baked goods are especially coveted. Volunteers bake for weeks: koulourakia (butter cookie braids), the familiar honey-nut layered baklava, pans of spanakopita (spinach pie), and much more. Volunteer Stellanie Kandilakis has been involved with the festival since her family relocated here from New York 33 years ago. She is heading up the committee making finikia, a spice cookie dipped in syrup and rolled in nuts. She says they made 4,500 of them in one day.

“I love sharing our Greek heritage and customs with everyone and watching everyone join in and have a good time,” she says.

At the Agora, or marketplace, you will find lots of imported jewelry, ceramics, toys, clothing and original art. You can pick up a copy of “Traditional Favorites,” the congregation’s newly revised cookbook with more than 300 recipes. Ingredients for those recipes are easily found at Papou’s Pantry, part of the marketplace. There is also an authentic taverna, with Greek wines and coffees.

This is the second Knoxville Greek Fest since a fire destroyed the church sanctuary in April 2015. Church tours tell the story of both the Greek Orthodox religion and the church’s own journey through its recent hardship. Services are currently held inside a hall inside the church building, as the main sanctuary is waiting on a soon-to-be-completed, hand-painted mosaic.

Greek Fest hours are 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Sept. 15 and 16, and 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. , Sunday, Sept. 17. Admission is $2 for adults, with $3 weekend passes available.

There is no parking at the church. Attendees must park at one of these off-site locations and take a free shuttle: Western Plaza (lower level); West High School (after 5 p.m. Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday); Laurel Church of Christ and Second Presbyterian (all day Friday and Saturday, after 12 p.m. Sunday). Info:

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