May 24-26, 2013
As one of the oldest and most culturally and technologically advanced Western civilizations, the Greeks are justifiably proud of their long heritage. Much of that proud heritage and culture was transplanted into New Orleans when large numbers of Greeks settled here in the mid-1800s.
Every year on Memorial Day Weekend descendents of the city's earliest Greek settlers commemorate their heritage with a festival celebrating all things pan-Hellenic. This year's Greek Festival, from May 24-26, will be celebrating its 40th anniversary.
The festival is held on the grounds of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral adjacent to Bayou St. John. The church, with its distinctive, round, Byzantine-style dome, is a local landmark and is the center for Greek faith and culture in New Orleans.
Like all other ethnic festivals in New Orleans, the Greek Festival features music and culinary specialties whose roots go back to the ancient homeland. As you enter, you may be pleasantly greeted with a "Kalos Orisate" (ka-los-o-REE-sa-te), meaning "Welcome" in Greek. From there the lively sounds of Greek music and the wonderful aroma of Greek food in the air will also greet you.
Aficionados of souvlaki, baklava, dolma (stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita (spinach pie), and gyro sandwiches (pita bread pockets stuffed with lamb, pork and zesty sauce) will find more than their share of it at the New Orleans Greek Festival. These and dozens of other unique food specialties will be served up. Fans of Greek music, especially the distinctive sounds of the bouzouki guitar, will find more than their share of that too, as Hellenic dancers in colorful native costumes sway to the driving rhythms. Don't be surprised if you hear shouts of "Opa!" like you might have heard during the wedding reception scene of the 1984 movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."
This year's 40th anniversary Greek Festival poster was designed by renowned New Orleans artist James Michalopoulos, designer of the 2013 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival poster and many others over a long career. His distinctively styled paintings of New Orleans structures with their characteristic slant are instantly recognizable, and they hang in numerous museums, galleries (including his own) and private collections throughout the world. The poster will be on sale at the festival.
There is entertainment for all ages, from kids' activities to fun things for the adults to do, like dancing or renting a canoe to ply the serene waters of Bayou St. John. Lucky winners of random drawings may win trips to Greece and the fabled Grecian isles of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. Those who wish to take something Greek home with them can purchase souvenirs from the mother country and various types of handcrafted items.
Holy Trinity Cathedral houses what is reported to be the first and oldest Greek Orthodox congregation in the United States, founded in 1866. Visitors may tour the ornate structure with its magnificent, Byzantine-style dome. Frescoes and stained glass windows in the Eastern Orthodox artistic style greet the eye in every direction one looks. Some visitors have likened it to touring an art museum.
There is a nominal admission charge for admission to the festival and children under 12 admitted free. Free off-site parking and shuttle service is available.
For more information call 504-282-0259 or visit their website at www.greekfestnola.com.