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Five tips for making the most of the 44th annual Richmond Greek Festival

Arguably RVA’s most popular food festival, the annual event celebrates its 44th anniversary this weekend. Here are our tips to make the most of your experience.

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Back before Richmond was known as a foodie town for all our great restaurants, we had a bunch of great food festivals. Festivals that live on to this day. Festivals like the Richmond Greek Festival, which is arguably the most popular (and inarguably the most delicious, in my opinion).

The Greek Festival, which kicks off at lunchtime today at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral, is celebrating its 44th anniversary this year. That’s right–members of the congregation have been dishing out moussaka, pastichio, and other Greek favorites since 1975.

In recent years, the church has also added the convenient option of a drive-thru, serving a select menu of festival food (PDF).

If it’s your first time descending upon this acropolis of delicious Greek cuisine, here are some tips to make the most of your experience.

Parking

If you’re in the general vicinity of the event (intersection of Malvern & Grove), walk or bike, as parking is very limited in the church lot, and sparse in the surrounding neighborhood. If you do drive, be prepared to hunt for a spot and walk at least a few blocks at peak times. You can also make a drive-through swing-by.

Timing

Speaking of peak times, avoid them if you can! Swing in for a late lunch, early dinner, etc. if possible to avoid long lines and hordes of hungry people. If you can’t avoid the lines, your best bet is to grab a wristband and snag a bottle of Greek wine to enjoy while you queue into the tents.

Queuing

The festival’s main food tent is buffet style, where you can select what you want to eat and pay as you exit. Cash and cards are accepted. If you plan on eating a big meal, this is the way to go, but be prepared to wait at least 20-30 minutes to get through the line at mealtimes. If you just want a few things to snack on, there are separate tents for things like calamari, lamb gyros, and beer and wine.

Eating

As Greek physician Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” If that’s true, you’re in for an overdose this weekend. You can view the full menu on the festival website. A few of the festival’s most popular items you should try include:

  • Calamari – Individual pieces of lightly fried squid with lemon
  • Dolmades – Tender grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice
  • Souvlaki – A sizzling skewer of tender chicken breast or pork marinated with herbs of Mediterranean origin and cooked over an open flame
  • Pastichio – Layers of imported Greek Pasta, grated cheese, and sautéed ground beef topped with a cream sauce (Béchamel) and baked
  • Moussaka – Layers of eggplant and sautéed ground beef topped with a rich cream sauce (Béchamel) and baked

If you’ve saved enough room for dessert, try:

  • Baklava – Chopped walnuts and cinnamon-sugar between layers of filo pastry dough, baked to a golden brown and drenched with a honey syrup
  • Loukoumades – Fluffy and light puffs, served warm with a honey syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon

Culture-ing

The festival is more than just food! You can take in the culture and spirit of Greece with live music and traditional dancing on the outdoor stage, as well as browse and buy works by local artisans and craftspeople at the church’s indoor market. It’s worth a visit, trust me.

Festival details

  • Thursday, May 30th, 11:00 AM – 9:30 PM; Friday, May 1st, 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM; Saturday, June 1st, 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM; Sunday, June 2nd, noon – 7:00 PM
  • Sts. Helen and Constantine Orthodox Cathedral, 30 Malvern Avenue in the Near West End
  • For more information call 804.355.3687
  • Drive-thru open from each day’s respective start time until dusk
  • Cash and cards accepted at all booths and drive-thru
  • Rain or shine event

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Downtown

2nd Street Festival releases full schedule for virtual event October 3-4

Venture Richmond Events will present new musical performances, favorite artists from past festivals, cooking demonstrations, virtual tours, neighborhood remembrances, fun family activities, and so much more.

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The 2nd Street Festival marks its 32nd anniversary October 3-4 with a virtual event celebrating downtown’s Jackson Ward community. Venture Richmond Events will present new musical performances, favorite artists from past festivals, cooking demonstrations, virtual tours, neighborhood remembrances, fun family activities, and so much more.

Featured Festival Artists

Saturday, October 3 from 6:00 – 7:15 p.m.

Legacy Band – Don’t miss this new festival performance by one of Richmond’s favorite bands playing top hits with a mix of soul, R&B, funk and jazz. The band was originally formed by guitarist Jose Pomier and vocalist Kaila Valdez.

EU (Experience Unlimited) – A favorite past performance from the 2019 festival headliner. EU is one of the original Washington, DC Go-Go bands, fronted by founding member Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott.

Sports Backers Fitness Warriors and D & G Line Dancing – Let’s get up and move with fun new dance workouts with our friends at Sports Backers and D&G Line Dancing. Learn along with great instructors!

Sunday, October 4 from 5:00 – 6:15 p.m.

Desirée Roots – Hear Desirée perform some of her new jazz favorites. As a theater and jazz sensation, she has been the opening act for several internationally acclaimed jazz music entertainers throughout her career. Her repertoire includes R&B and gospel.

Remembrance of Debo Dabney – Listen in as local musicians and friends including J. Plunky Branch, Glennroy Bailey, Desirée Roots, and more share their reflections of Herbert A. Dabney, III, a dynamic and animated pianist who passed away earlier this year. Affectionately known as “Debo,” he was a beloved friend of the festival and an all-around fan favorite. His repertoire ranged from jazz, gospel, R&B, swing, blues and children’s classics. Debo performed for 31 of the festival’s 32 years.

Virginia Union University Gospel Choir – Sing, clap or hum along with the university’s gospel choir as they perform two new selections. This choir recently performed on ABC’s Good Morning America with Latin musician Jose Feliciano.

Virtual Festival Activities

Cooking Demonstrations

Chefs from popular 2nd Street Festival vendors, Croaker’s Spot and Chef MaMusu of Africanne on Main, will both prepare and share dishes through culinary demonstrations live-streamed directly into homes to capture the same delicious foods that we’ve all come to expect from the 2nd Street Festival.

Kidz Zone Fun

Young viewers will enjoy story time with Candice Smith of NBC12 News and with the Children’s Museum, and a balloon twisting demonstration by festival favorite Eddie Cook with Balloons By Extreme.

Spotlight on Jackson Ward

Gary Flowers of Walking the Ward Tours visits two popular community sites, the Maggie L. Walker statue and Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church. Also, hear remembrances from longtime residents and business owners of Jackson Ward during the live stream event. 

Get 2nd Street Ready!
Show your support before, during and after the virtual festival.

Festival Marketplace

Visit Venture Richmond’s website for a full list of your favorite 2019 2nd Street Festival Marketplace vendors to shop online before, during and after the festival weekend! 

Official Festival Poster

Purchase an official 2020 2nd Street Festival poster designed by local quilter and artist, Unicia Buster. Learn more about the artist and her festival poster design. The new poster will be unveiled on September 23, watch on Facebook Live for your chance to win a signed print! Posters will be available for sale at Plan 9 Music in Carytown or at Plan 9 Online here starting on September 24.

Radio One “2nd Street MIX” Weekend

Get ready for the festival by listening to Radio One’s “2nd Street MIX” weekend on Saturday, September 26 from 1:00pm-10:00pm and Sunday, September 27 from 12:00pm-7:00pm. Enjoy a very special MIX weekend on 99.3/105.7 KISS FM featuring your favorite artists that have played at the 2nd Street Festival over the years and your favorite DJs too! The MIX lineup will feature DJ King Tutt, DJ Drake, and DJ Lonnie B. Listen for songs by Morris Day and the Time, Average White Band, SOS Band, and many other great R & B groups!

“Show us your 2nd Street Smile” Photo Contest

From September 28 to October 4, use the #2Street hashtag to “Show us your 2nd Street Smile” and win prizes! On Facebook and Instagram, post photos of where and how you plan to watch the virtual 2nd Street Festival. Are you watching with your best friend, your furry friends, or your family? Show us your 2nd Street smile! On October 5, we’ll choose 10 winners to win $50-$100 gift cards to your favorite spots in the Jackson Ward neighborhood! Don’t forget to label your photos with #2Street to be entered to win.

Historic Jackson Ward Neighborhood

Even though we can’t be together in Jackson Ward this year, be sure to shop the Jackson Ward businesses and restaurants and tour the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site on 2nd Street to show your support for downtown Richmond and the 2nd Street Festival. Don’t forget to wear your mask!

Ways to Watch This Year’s Virtual Festival

This year’s virtual festival is a great opportunity for families to plan gatherings and watch parties at home in a safe, fun and responsible way.

For up-to-date information, visit https://venturerichmond.com/our-events/2nd-street-festival-2020

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Arts & Entertainment

“Big Tent Festival: African American Voices” kicks off Richmond Symphony at Maymont Saturday

Due to COVID-19, all seating will be pod-style and groups are asked to sit at least six feet apart. Proceeds from this event support the purchase of musical instruments for elementary and middle school students in Richmond Public Schools’ 5th District.

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The 2020-2021 Richmond Symphony season opens tomorrow with a one-day Big Tent Festival at Maymont, supported by the City of Richmond. This will be the first time the orchestra has played together since the pandemic hit.

Music Director Valentina Peleggi will open her first season with a program theme of African American Voices, recognizing the perspectives of the Black employees of the Dooley family who originally lived at Maymont, which is represented through the new Below Stairs exhibit at the Dooley Mansion and portrayed by actors during the festival.

It all takes place Saturday, September 12th from 3:00 – 8:00 PM. Gates open at 2:00 PM. Richmond Symphony will perform at 6:30 PM alongside actors portraying African American Maymont staff members of the Dooley era. Maymont is located at 1700 Hampton Street in Richmond.

Due to COVID-19, all seating will be pod-style and groups are asked to sit at least six feet apart. Proceeds from this event support the purchase of musical instruments for elementary and middle school students in Richmond Public Schools’ 5th District. For more information about the Big Tent and to reserve tickets, click here.

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Downtown

City of Richmond recommends postponement or cancellation of large events within city limits

“Due to the greater health threat COVID-19 poses to the city’s most vulnerable populations, my administration and its partners are taking all necessary precautions to encourage CDC-recommended social distancing,” the Mayor said in a release.

RVAHub Staff

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In the interest of public health and in an abundance of caution, the administration of Mayor Levar Stoney is recommending that organizers of large events postpone or cancel those events within the city limits until further notice. The guidelines did not define what constitutes a “large” event nor revokes permits issued by the city for said events, which would force cancellation.

The recommendation is being made following intensive discussion with public health and public safety officials and is informed by the Centers for Disease Control Interim Guidance designed for those planning large events and mass gatherings. The city generally is also recommending that people practice social distancing.

While 80 percent of those who contract COVID-19 experience mild symptoms, populations such as the elderly, the immunocompromised and those with chronic conditions are at greater risk of more serious symptoms.

“Due to the greater health threat COVID-19 poses to the city’s most vulnerable populations, my administration and its partners are taking all necessary precautions to encourage CDC-recommended social distancing,” the Mayor said in a release.

The administration has also dedicated a web page to provide Richmond’s residents, employees, and visitors with the most recent, reliable updates on the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. It can be found here.

“Public health and public safety are our highest priorities,” said Mayor Stoney. “In order to keep the community safe, we must disseminate the most reliable and current information. This page will serve as a source of official information from the Centers for Disease Control, the Virginia Department of Health, the local health authority, the regional team, and the city administration.”

Updates will be publicized using the official City of Richmond social media accounts, @CityRichmondVA on Twitter and City of Richmond, VA Government on Facebook. All social media posts will link to the rolling updates on the web page.

“I urge you to share these updates with your family, friends and coworkers,” said Mayor Stoney. “We’re dedicated to ensuring the City of Richmond is as prepared as possible for any escalation, and education is key.”

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