Alabama is a colorful tapestry of cultures, woven in part by people who have moved here from other countries and made the Yellowhammer State a better place.
Over the years, Mobile’s ports, Birmingham’s early 20th-century steel mills and mines, farms statewide, today’s University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Huntsville’s military and tech industries have attracted people from all over the world who now call Alabama home.
Festivals set for September and October in Birmingham and Mobile explore the food, faith, and fun times they have contributed.
St. George’s Middle Eastern Food Festival (Birmingham)
In its 41st year, the annual festival at St. George Melkite Greek Catholic Church features food, music and dancing, artisan booths, and church tours. The menu features entrees and sandwiches with baked kibbee (blend of spiced ground beef and bulgur wheat), baked chicken, falafel, along with meat or spinach pies. Greek pastries like baklava, zalabieh doughnuts, mamoul cookies and the frozen dairy dessert booza. Online ordering is available. Food is sold to eat onsite or take out from 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Drive-through open 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Delivery available within five miles. Online ordering available. Church tours are available Thursday and Friday evening, and all day Saturday.
Held since 2002, Birmingham families from nearly two dozen countries celebrate their diverse food, music, art, and dance. Fiesta “villages” also showcase non-profits and businesses, and provide health and wellness information. Fiesta marks the midpoint of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which starts in mid-September. Set for noon until 8 p.m. at Linn Park downtown, events include storytelling, wrestling, children’s activities, and visual arts displays. Advance tickets are $14.15 with fees. Children 12 and under enter for free.
The 50th edition of one of Birmingham’s oldest and most popular festivals is expected to attract upwards of 30,000 people. Most come for the food, available to eat there, take out, or pick up at the drive-through. The menu features baked chicken, souvlakia, spanakopita, dolmathes, gyros, veggie plates, pastries, and other treats that church members have been preparing for months. Open 10:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. each day, the Greek festival also features traditional music and dancing, vendors, and church tours. Chartered in 1906, the Holy Trinity-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox parish is one of the oldest in the Southeast. Drive-through hours are 10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. A portion of proceeds benefits Children’s of Alabama, Firehouse Ministries, and The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama.
Organizers call the Mobile Latin Fest “a cultural sample of the rich diversity of the Latin countries and help integrate our communities by promoting mutual understanding.” In its third year, the fest is like a progressive party: Friday’s session (5 p.m. – 10 p.m.) is slated for Cathedral Square, and Saturday’s event (4 p.m. – 10 p.m.) will roll at Mobile’s Mardi Gras Park. Both days feature food, music, folkloric dance, and crafts. The fest caps National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs September 15 through October 15. Admission is free.
St Symeon Food and Culture Fair (Birmingham)
The parish traces its roots to Ukrainian, Greek, Romanian, Arabic, and Russian immigrants to the Magic City. Sweets and savories from all those countries will be on sale, and the fare this year also will include Ethiopian food. Self-guided and hosted church tours will focus on its icons, including new murals. The church choir will perform at 11 a.m. Themed market stalls are The Slavic Tea Room, The Balkan Bakery, Café Europa, Southern Sweets and Savories, and the new Middle Eastern Marketplace. Don’t miss the “Opa! Kabana” and its made-to-order deep-fried loukoumades, covered in honey, chocolate, or powdered sugar. In its fifth year, the fair is open from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Free admission.
Greek Fest (Mobile)
This celebration of the Greek immigrants who settled in this port city traces back to 1962 and what was then called Greek Night. Held at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, activities include church tours, shopping, Greek dancers, and musical performers. The fest menu includes rolled grape leaves, chicken skewers, savory spanakopita, gyros, creamy pasta-and-meat pastichio, and handmade sweets. No cash accepted; credit and debit cards only. Admission is free and parking is available. Greek Fest is set for 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Sunday.