The 46th Annual Greek Festival Draws in Crowds of Staten Islanders For All Things Music, Food and Fun
By: Amanda Bengard
The annual Greek Festival in Bulls Head has been held on Staten Island for over 45 years. In the beginning of September spanning across two weekends, over 20,000 visitors flock to celebrate Hellenic culture with Greek food, music, raffles, carnival rides and more.
While the weather begins to cool, tents go up in preparation for one of the largest events hosted by Holy Trinity-St. Nicholas Orthodox Church. Just a skip and a jump away from Staten Island’s college campus, makes visiting the festival a great after school activity while also supporting our local community.
As an annual attendee, pro tips include; arriving just around dinner time to the church parking lot turned Greek celebration. Parking will be difficult considering the abundance of new and returning revelers, therefore finding a spot a block or two away from the venue isn’t uncommon.
On your walk over you might see frolicking children, couples hand in hand, and families all headed in the same direction. Follow the traditional Greek tunes and the delicious smell of souvlaki as you arrive to the Richmond avenue entry gate.
There, welcoming church members can be seen handing out menus while collecting a $2.00 cover charge before entering the all cash event. Not to worry because ATM machines will be on site for quick and easy transactions.
Upon entering, rows of long tables filled with festival goers will lead directly up to the food tent. Some of the best food and dessert can be found here and so it is advised to arrive on an empty stomach. Favorites include spanakopita (spinach pie), pastitsio (layered macaroni and ground beef, topped with a béchamel sauce) and the famous lamb or beef gyro in pita bread.
The tables are set up ensuring a family style experience, which is eating together with neighbors and friends. While digging into delicious food, nightly performances are played on the main stage for all to see. Be entertained by traditional Hellenic dancers dressed in folk costumes and participate in the dancing yourself with live music by “The Cosmopolitans.”
If the performance is not charming enough, located throughout the lot are kid friendly amusements such as ring toss and carnival rides. For adults, the festival also provides imported Greek wine by the bottle or glass, Greek beer, nightly games of chance and a mega raffle giving away 10 cash prizes.
After dinner and games, it is impossible to skip the most exciting part of the festival, dessert. With an entire tent dedicated to fresh pastries doused in honey, there is no such thing as ‘no room for dessert.’
Upon discovering the sweetest tent of the night, parishioners will be serving American coffee, Greek demitasse and tea for those who prefer it. Greek classics such baklava, karidopita (honey walnut cake) and a festival favorite called loukoumades (honey puffs with syrup), to which can be added powdered sugar and cinnamon to each visitor’s discretion.
If this description of all that is honey and sugar doesn’t suffice, there is always a Carvel ice-cream truck parked inside the event serving up cold treats and delicious sundaes for the kids. The event’s success is directly thanks to donations from parishioners, local businesses and volunteers who not only work during the occasion but also prepare months leading up to it.
For two weekends each year the Greek festival provides a real traditional experience without having to travel thousands of miles. Welcoming a diverse population of attendees, the celebration continues to stand alone when it comes to what brings our community together.
After the overwhelming turnout, it can be said that next year’s festival can’t come soon enough. Opa!