MANATEE -- The 31st annual Greek Glendi Festival is a celebration of Greece heritage. To better share that heritage with the community, George Pandis wanted to include a Greek wine tasting this year.
"It's a Greek heritage festival, and it is about the heritage, and if we don't include the 4,000 years of wine-making history, then we are really missing out on it," said Pandis, who is in charge of the wine tasting.
Greece is having a wine renaissance by bringing ancient grape varieties to its wine making, said Pandis, who works at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Club on Lido Key.
Greece is "making better and better Greek wine," he said. "It is a very exciting time for Greek wine."
Manatee and Sarasota residents can sample Greek wine during the four-day festival at St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, 7671 N. Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota. About 12,000 people are expected to attend.
The wine tasting Friday and Saturday costs $15, which includes a souvenir wine glass and six wine samples. Greek wine will also be sold by the glass and bottle.
"There are so many people, especially in Sarasota and Manatee area, that are wine lovers and go on trips to Napa Valley or France and learn about new wines, and this gives them an opportunity to learn about Greek wines," Pandis said. "I want to share it with the Sarasota and Manatee communities and all our guests that come down to give them alternatives to French, Italian and California wines and I knew they would enjoy it. We are combining some good wines with some good food and good music and you can't help but have a good time."
Tony Vlahides, festival co-chairman, said every year they do new things to rejuvenate the festival. Other new aspects this year include appetizers sold to accompany the wine tasting and a new Greek band.
On Thursday, there will be no admission fee but people are asked to donate money to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Manatee County.
The Greek Glendi Festival has become a staple in the Manatee and Sarasota community, Vlahides said.
"It is an annual thing and people look forward to it," Vlahides said.
While Vlahides enjoys the Greek music and dancing, he said whe also likes selling gyros because it gives him a chance to meet people and see how appreciative the customers are.
"It is really wonderful working with people down here," he said.
Other activities include traditional Greek dance performances by the church's Hellenic Dancers, a Kids Adventure Zone and vendors selling art and Greek jewelry. Guided tours of the church will be given every hour between 1-5 p.m.
On Sunday night, a Mercedes-Benz sedan or SUV (winner's choice), $7,500 cash and a $5,000 travel certificate will each be raffled. Raffle tickets sold at the festival are $100 and only 1,500 will be sold.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $4 and free for children 12 and younger. Parking is free at the church and there will be overflow parking Friday through Sunday at Trinity Church, 7225 Lockwood Ridge Road.
St. Barbara’s Greek Festival (Glendi)
St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church
7671 North Lockwood Ridge Road
Sarasota, FL 34243