For thousands of Houstonians, the first weekend of October means one thing: The return of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral's annual Original Greek Festival. Taking place this year from Thursday through Sunday, the event sees people flooding into Montrose to get their fill of Greek culture, wine and, most importantly, food.
Hundreds of volunteers spend thousands of hours preparing every dish by hand. It's a labor of love with one principle benefit for festival goers — the money saved on labor gets put into ingredients for the various pastries, snacks and savory items served throughout the weekend.
Those 21,000 pieces of baklava sound like a lot, but, when it's gone, that's it until next year.
Eager to get a behind the scenes look at some of the work that goes into the festival's food, CultureMap visited the cathedral during one of the days devoted to making baklava. It takes volunteers almost a week to make enough trays to meet the demand for the more than 21,000 pieces that will be sold during the weekend. The men and women who make the treats carefully lay out each layer of filo dough and apply clarified butter. The final seven layers each have a mixture of nuts, sugar and spices.
In addition to sweets, attendees can snack on savory items like gyros, stuffed grape leaves and Greek lasagna. Wine and beer are also available and reasonably priced.
Of course, the festival is more than just food. You can watch Greek dancing and listen to Greek music. Tour the cathedral. Shop the market for imported items. There's even a separate play area for children. All for an admission fee of only $5; children 12 and under get in free.
For those who don't live close enough to walk or bike, organizers recommend taking the shuttle from Lamar High School or the City of Houston Lot H near downtown. Expect parking enforcement to be closely monitoring anyone who tries to park in the surrounding neighborhoods. Don't be the person whose experience is ruined with an expensive ticket.
With a cool front scheduled to blow through on Thursday, the weather should be fantastic all weekend, which means big crowds. Get there early. Those 21,000 pieces of baklava sound like a lot, but, when it's gone, that's it until next year.
Hours for The Original Greek Festival are: Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (free admission) and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (food served while it lasts).