After months of anticipation, the 35th annual International Greek Food Festival is almost here. Before festivities officially kick off — and our food comas set in — we’re getting the scoop from Father Nicholas Verdaris of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church about what to expect at this year’s festival.

Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite subject. What’s new to the festival menu?

Father Nicholas Verdaris: For our 35th year, we’re going all out. In addition to staples like gyros, baklava and spanakopita, we’re adding six new items: the gyro salad; improved Greek salad; Olympic sundae with vanilla ice cream topped with Greek doughnut holes and honey syrup; ouzo cake; "OPAtizer" plate with Greek meatballs, dolmades, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, sliced tomato, cucumber and pita; and the "Vegeterranean" plate with seasoned rice, Greek-style green beans, Greek salad and pita.

By popular demand, we’re also bringing back the lamb dinner. If that’s not enough, Loblolly Creamery is debuting a caramel baklava flavor to go along with fan favorites Chocklava, Opa! Berry and Greek Coffee Chip.

Psst! Learn how to make the church's famous meatballs here.

You also have an exciting new addition to church tours this year. Tell us more.

FNV: During our first-ever tasting event this month, we revealed our newly installed handmade-in-Italy mosaic icon of Christ that includes 700,000 pieces of glass. Once visitors have their fill of our famous food, I hope they’ll join me on one of our scheduled church tours so they can see the beauty and artistry of this new feature up close.

In its 34 years of hosting the festival, the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church has raised more than $1.5 million for local charities. Who are this year’s beneficiaries?

FNV: At the church, we like to say attendees can indulge without guilt because all proceeds benefit charity. This year we’re proud to support Centers for Youth and Families, Community Connections, Easterseals Arkansas, Humane Society of Pulaski County, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas, Wolfe Street Foundation and Youth Home.

And, as in years past, we’re accepting canned goods for the Arkansas Foodbank as an alternative entry fee. In 2018 we collected enough to provide more than 5,000 meals. We’re hoping to top that this weekend!

 

The 35th annual International Greek Food Festival is set for May 17-19 at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. Fest hours are 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $3 or three canned food items for the Arkansas Foodbank. Parking, trolley service and children under 12 are free.

For more information, visit the International Greek Food Festival website and follow along on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Arkansas Greek Food Festival (@greekfoodfest) on