BROOKSVILLE — With its My Big Fat Greek Festival coming up next weekend, Christ the Savior Greek Orthodox Church members are looking forward to sharing the church's heritage, and its heart, with the community.
"We love to share our beautiful Hellenic traditions, culture, food and dance," says a brochure for the event.
"It allows us to share our warm culture, make new friends, give the community a fun family entertainment weekend and give back to different local charities every year," Emily Thomas, last year's parish council president, said about the sixth annual festival.
The festivities from Feb. 5 to 7 at the Hernando County Fairgrounds. For the admission price of $2, those attending are offered live entertainment and access to numerous vendors, as well as free parking. Children under 12 will be admitted free.
Entertainers for the event include Demetri, of Demetri and the Islanders, playing music for the three days, Shazadi and Jewels of the Desert and other local performers, including an Elvis tribute artist.
There will be a Greek trivia game, a gyro-eating contest, cooking demonstrations and a Toga Fun Run, along with several door prizes.
"We have an awesome kids village, even some free kids bounce houses, balloon art, face painting and pay-per-play fun stuff, too," Thomas said.
Greek dancing, including lessons, will be offered.
Food prepared by Greek City Cafe will be available for purchase and includes Greek favorites like gyros, moussaka, pastistio, souvlaki, saganaki, spanakopita, dolmades, Greek salads and lamb shank. There will be pastries from Hellas Bakery, such as baklava and baklava cheesecake — a double order this year so as not to run out as in past years. Food prices range from $4 to $10.
"We have so much variety. We even offer a variety box at the bakery to take home some yummies for another day," Thomas said. "With Valentine's Day around the corner, you will find the perfect something for your special someone, from our variety of jewelry and craft vendors as well as specialty Greek items and much more."
The United Way will partner with the church in sponsoring the festival. The Souper Bowl of Caring will also benefit from the proceeds.
Proceeds will also benefit the church's budget, which this year will include the building of a new facility on Anderson Snow Road in the coming months.
Thomas and her family began attending Christ the Savior Greek Orthodox Church in 2002, when they moved to Hernando County from West Palm Beach. It was the same year the church had become a mission church.
"We were welcomed by all and felt like, and still do, extended family," she said.
The Rev. Julian Damian has been the priest for the past two years.
"He is young, eager and very excited to be a part of the building of a new church," Thomas said. "We are happy to have him."
Thomas' husband, Curt, is the parish council president, a position he has held in previous years as well.
The church is part of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta. Services are primarily in English. Everyone participates by reading or singing along.
"We are small but active in our community," Thomas said, noting that the church was awarded the 28th annual Commissioner's Business Recognition Award from the state of Florida. "Christ the Savior Greek Orthodox Church is a chamber (of commerce) member, and we look forward to a ribbon cutting when that special time for our ground breaking comes."