Yiasou to you 

It’s time to say Yiasou. That’s the Greek work for “to your health,” and it can also mean “hello” or “goodbye.”

They all fit, because it’s time for the 54th annual Savannah Greek Festival. Sponsored by St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church, it will be held Oct. 20, 21 and 22 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hellenic Center at 14 W. Anderson St.

We could also say kali orexi, which means “good appetite,” but it’s pretty much a given that folks who attend this festival are there to eat.

“The festival consists of a lot of Greek food,” says publicity chair Judith Stavriotis. “Our ladies have already been preparing the food. And it’s the real McCoy, all homemade.”

Cooking starts months in advance because that’s how long it takes to feed the hordes who turn out for the festival. “6,000-7,000 people come to this,” Stavriotis says. “That’s a lot of people.”

Fortunately, there is a lot of food. For example, St. Paul’s volunteers will prepare 20,000 pieces of Baklava, a type of Greek pastry with pecans and spices baked in filo..

The pastries are baked just before the festival. In addition to Baklava, there are Kourabiedes, butter cookies topped with powdered sugar; Finikia, honey-dipped spice cookies topped with pecans; Koulourakia, butter cookies that are good to dip in coffee; and Kataife, shredded filo dough filled with chopped nuts, spices and honey syrup.

We told you about the pastries first so you would save room for dessert, because the main dishes include Pastitso, Spanakopita, Dolamades, meat balls, Greek salad and gyros. Kali orexi, indeed.

Stavriotis says there are two reasons the Greek Festival is so popular. “A, the food, and B, the live entertainment,” she says.

This year’s entertainment will be provided by Nick Trivelas and A Night in Athens, featuring George Antonopoulos on bouzouki. They will provide authentic Greek music throughout the festival.

St. Paul’s has three dance groups that will perform. The adult troupe is Zoe, which means “life.” Zoe will perform Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at noon, 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

There are two children’s groups -- Ta Pethia, which means “the children” and the Zorba Dancers, who are teens. They will perform Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

“They start as early as kindergarten -- little ones,” Stavriotis says. “If they learn to do that early, they are more likely to do it as teens.”

Another group, the Goya dancers, will perform Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. You’ll get a chance to work off all that food you’ve eaten because the audience will be invited to dance.

“The audience is invited to dance along, and some do,” Stavriotis says. “The girls from St. Vincent’s come over for lunch and they always dance.”

The Bakaliko, or Greek grocery store, will offer Greek food items that can’t be found in Savannah, including cheese, olives, olive oil and coffee. “We import it from New York by the tractor-trailer load,” Stavriotis says.

The Agora, or market place, also will be open.

Tours of St. Paul’s will be conducted and there will be lectures about the Greek Orthodox religion presented Thursday and Friday at 6 and 7 p.m. and on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 7:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

There will be a raffle with chances to win a digital camera, a 19-inch color television or a stereo system with CD and cassette players. There also will be a silent auction, with a painting and Persian rugs as some of the offerings.

Get there early to ensure you get your favorite foods. It all goes quickly, and some items, particularly pastries, sell out.

“Many things sell out, in spite of our heroic efforts,” Stavriotis says. “We have a policy that what doesn’t sell is offered to church members at a discount on Sunday.

“That’s very popular, but disappointing,” she says. “There’s no Baklava left. We all dash over there and line up, but there isn’t nearly as much as we hope.”


The 54th annual Savannah Greek Festival will be held Oct. 20--22 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hellenic Center, 14 W. Anderson St. Admission is free on Thursday and Friday before 4 p.m. After 4 p.m. and all day Saturday, admission is $2 per person at the door.



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Linda Sickler

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