Kankakee Greek Fest

Women dance a traditional Greek dance at the 2018 Greek Fest. The festival will return Sept. 26.

From 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 26, the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Kankakee will hold its 86th annual Greek Food Festival at the BrickStone Brewery Production Facility, 572 Brewery Lane, Bourbonnais. This will be a full-scale festival, with music, dancing, all manner of festivities and, of course, Greek food.

The familiar menu will feature three full dinners — juicy Shish-kabob (Souvlaki); the world-famous Greek Chicken; and Spanakopita (Spinach Pie) — as well as a package of assorted mouth-watering Greek pastries. The chicken and shish-kabob are priced at $12, and the spanakopita and pastry assortment will be $10.

There also will be a well-known Greek band from Chicago, Greek folk dancers and local musicians playing live music. Also on site will be a Greek Marketplace of imported grocery favorites and other cultural items for sale, the popular bingo tent, activities for children and the traditional cash raffle. BrickStone beers will be sold, as well as imported Greek wines and soft drinks.

The BrickStone brewing location, just around the corner from the BrickStone Restaurant, will offer plenty of room for all activities and plenty of seating as well under large tents. The feast will go on, rain or shine, as parish members facilitate all parts of the experience for patrons and friends.

All proceeds from this event — long a staple in the local area’s cultural calendar and always a much-anticipated part of the local entertainment scene — will benefit Annunciation Church’s ministries, as well as a planned neighborhood beautification program.

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Parish was founded and built 96 years ago at its historic location, 296 N. Washington Ave., Kankakee, by an enterprising group of Greek immigrant business owners and their families.

The Greek Festival long has been something local residents look forward to.

Once home to hundreds of immigrant and first-generation families, Annunciation now carries on as a loving body of descendants of those pioneers but with a current majority membership of converts to the Orthodox Christian faith. Even as the founders passed away and most of their children moved, about 10 restaurants remain part of the local Greek community, passing on delicious know-how to new members.

This year’s event follows a smaller, purely drive-thru food festival that was held at BrickStone in November. Organized almost spur of the moment as a way to brighten up the pall of the pandemic, and held just before the Orthodox Christmas Fast was to begin Nov. 15, it was a success, as seemingly half of Kankakee County turned out on a 70-degree day.

The only problem — and it was one that cut to the heart of Greek hospitality — was the food ran out well before the lines of cars were served, and hundreds of people had to be turned away. For the Greek restaurant culture, this is virtually original sin, and the parish promises to have enough food for all this year.

Annunciation parishioners are very excited about the prospects for this event.

As life-long Kankakee resident and parish council treasurer Penny Denoyer said in a news release, “All summer, people have been calling and writing, asking if the festival was still going to be held, always saying they sure hoped so.”

Parish council president Andy Nicholas said, “We are tremendously grateful for the generosity of the BrickStone families in offering their facility. We think it will be a perfect setting, and we are certain our guests will as well.”

Sophia Berdebes, of George’s Family House Restaurant, which always donates much of the food and cooking to the event, said, “Our hearts go out to the Giannakopoulos and Vassilakis families of BrickStone. They lost their beloved founding generation Helen, Ted and Tina in the last year or so but have submerged their sorrow in giving back in this way to their revered Annunciation Church. For them — and for all of us — it is our spiritual home and our place of comfort and renewed hope.”

Nicholos said all of these people and more will be cooking for and serving their friends and neighbors during the festival. They hope the community will come out in record numbers, finding a way to celebrate together in a year that has been dismally short of such joy.

The Facebook page of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church will have regular updates and news. For further information, call parish pastor Father Nick Greanias at 708-606-1015 or Penny Denoyer at 815-937-4026.