John Petalas, president of the Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, did his first Merrillville Greek Festival when he was 20 years old.
Petalas, now 64, is getting set for the 50th anniversary of the festival.
“It’s manned by volunteers and a lot of people have grown up by this festival,” Petalas said. “It’s our way of displaying our cultural heritage that we’re proud to be a part of.”
The festival will take place July 12 and run through July 14. Hours are from 5-11 p.m. on July 12 and and noon-11 p.m. on July 13 and 14. Parking will be free on the grounds of the church.
Food, live music and carnival games are the main attractions at the event.
“It’s all about food there, really,” Petalas said.
The main feature is the barbecue lamb cooked on a spit. Petalas recommends getting there before 8 p.m., if people want to eat the lamb.
Other dishes include shish kebobs, a Greek lasagna called pastitsio, gyros and flaming Greek cheese and fries, and more.
Petalas said 95% of all the pastries are home-made and started to be prepared a little over a month ago.
There will be indoor and outdoor dining, along with plenty of vendors set up along the grounds.
On July 12 at 7 p.m. the High Noon band will perform on the main stage. The Mini Tones, who perform American and Greek music, will take the stage on July 13. Petalas said the Mini Tones started playing together when they were around 20 years old and eventually broke up but are getting back together just to play this festival. On July 14, Ormi, a Greek band from Illinois, will be performing.
There is no cost to see the live music.
A beer garden will be adjacent to the dance floor, so people can sit inside under a tent to listen to the bands or be on the dance floor.
For the kids, there will be a carnival with small rides and games. Wrist bands can be purchased on July 13 from 1-5 p.m. for $20.
Petalas said the money being raised goes to a good cause. Aside from church operations, the money gets contributed to the Ross Township food pantry, the Helping Hand Fund and other missions.
“Everything there is for a good cause and everybody there has a good time,” Petalas said. “It’s a friendly atmosphere.”