Only a few short days remain until the 33rd annual International Greek Food Festival, and there is plenty to be excited about. (Have you heard about the new Greek-inspired ice cream flavors?) But before the big weekend, Soirée caught up with this year's co-chairs Philip Miron and Kevin Wilcox to learn about changes, debuts and all the things guests can expect.
How did you get involved with the Greek Food Festival?
Kevin Wilcox: This will be my 26th straight year to work the festival. I married into it! My wife is Greek, and we’ve raised our kids in the church.
Philip Miron: I’ve been involved with the festival from the very beginning. This will be my 33rd year to help.
Why is the festival important to the community?
KW: As the largest ethnic food festival in Arkansas, we think the festival brings some international flair that’s good for our community and state. We’re able to share food traditions from all over the world, not just Greece.
PM: In addition to being a huge fundraiser for local charities, the festival is an annual cultural event that allows visitors to experience a melting pot of cultures: Greek, Middle-Eastern, Eastern European, Indian, Irish and Hispanic.
This year's event is more charity-focused than ever. Can you tell us more about that?
KW: We have eight benefitting charities this year, the most ever. We’re also accepting canned food items in lieu of admittance (three cans or $3) for those wishing to help Arkansas Foodbank. By the end of the weekend, we’ll have donated nearly $1.5 million to local charities during the festival’s history.
PM: By collecting three canned food items or $3 for admission this year, we’re excited to double our support for local charities.
Sidenote: Children ages 12 and under get in free.
What other differences can attendees expect?
KW: We have a fun new meal combination, the My Big Fat Greek Platter, which marries several of our most popular food items: pastisio, spanakopita and Greek chicken. In addition, we are teaming up with Loblolly Creamery for three unique ice cream flavors, designed specifically for the festival.
PM: In addition to our new food items (My Big Fat Greek Platter, exclusive Loblolly festival flavors and take-home baklava pans), we have two great local bands on Friday and Saturday. The Donna Massey Band will play on Friday at 7:45 p.m., and the Big John Miller Band will play on Saturday at 7:45 p.m.
What's your favorite festival tradition?
KW: There are too many to name! But my daughter has danced for years, so I am partial to both the Greek and Middle Eastern dancers. I also love meeting and working with so many local volunteers. My wife Stephanie coordinates the hundreds of volunteers who help with the festival all weekend.
PM: I love to see the people. We have a very loyal group of visitors, volunteers and friends who come every year. It’s fun to visit with everyone and work with the good folks from our benefiting charities.
Which dish are you most looking forward to?
KW: My favorites are (a) gyros, (b) Greek chicken dinner and (c) lamb dinner. Of course, everyone has to have some pastries too! Nothing compares to our baklava.
PM: It’s all delicious, but probably the Big Fat Greek Platter that includes pastisio (Greek lasagna), spanakopita (spinach pie), Greek salad and a quarter of a chicken marinated in special spices. That’s going to be hard to beat this year.
Learn more at the Greek Food Fest website.