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Flavorful events in the Pensacola Bay Area

Location, location, location, makes Pensacola a fantastic place to live or visit, any time of year. But it’s weather, weather, weather that offers Pensacola so many opportunities to celebrate all year long. Near-perfect spring and fall temps make for weekends crammed full of festivals, food and fun. From the big and well-known festivals to the small and just-getting-started events, Pensacola’s diverse population with varied cultural influences has lots of reasons to celebrate. And you’re invited!

The Greek Festival

Pensacola’s Greek heritage is rooted in the emigrants who came in the mid-to-late 1800s to call this coastal paradise their new home. Greek influence is evident still in Pensacola, from the Mediterranean flavors infused into local cuisine by Greek chefs to the thriving community of The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. The church kicks off Pensacola’s fall festival season each October with The Greek Festival, now in its 57th year. This popular festival is organized to promote filoxenia or “friendliness to strangers,” a quality said to be a gracious trait of the Greek culture. Each year, the festival attacks around 20,000 visitors, plying them with food, music, dancing, church tours and more. They plan to top that number this year. With the baklava, spanakopita, stuffed grape leaves and other Greek fare, who can stay away?

Smokin’ in the Square

The local Knights of Columbus sponsored the first charity fundraiser Smokin’ in the Square BBQ cookoff in 2008 on the festival grounds of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, with 13 backyard teams competing in a single afternoon. Two years later, the now two-day event moved to Olde Seville Square in downtown Pensacola. On festival days, the Square teems with mouth-watering aromas coming from the grills of 50 professional teams and 25 backyard teams. Votes are cast and the debate continues. Is it the sauce? The wood? The cut of meat? Vegetarians beware, you may be converted. The Knights have a goal for the 10th annual competition in 2019 – to raise a whopping $50,000 for local charities.

Taste of the Beach

You are invited to “sip, savor and surf” while the area’s finest chefs seek to dazzle and amaze with their culinary prowess at the Annual Taste of the Beach festival. It starts with a VIP dinner at the Hilton Pensacola Beach Hotel, an evening that features local “celebrity chefs.” The festivities continue the next day at Gulfside Pavilion at Casino Beach when 20-plus beach restaurants showcase their signature dishes for $5 a pop. A little bite of this and a taste of that fills you up when it’s all so good. Live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, recipe competitions and beer tastings round out the fun. Kids love the free surf clinic, face painting, cotton candy, snow cones, games, sand and sun.

Emerald Coast Beer Festival

The microbrew, home-brew, specialty-brew craze sweeping America has not bypassed Pensacola. The Emerald Coast Beer Festival proves that. Dozens of local contenders, as well as several from around the southeast – brewers, brewpubs, home-brew clubs, distributors and retailers alike – will gather at Rosie O’Grady’s Good Time Emporium at Seville to celebrate the art of beer brewing and to compete for bragging rights. The Emporium, with seven different rooms and two courtyards, will be brimming with beer enthusiasts. Food options are a little limited at this event, but food stands are available and the on-site Oyster Bar restaurant is open during and after the event. This one is for adults only – no humans under 21 and no pets. 

The Seafood Festival

Mark your calendars in September each year and cross off the whole weekend for this beloved family festival – Pensacola’s Seafood Festival in Olde Seville Square. Local tradition and hometown hospitality come together in a place that just screams Pensacola. Yes, it’s about delicious gumbo and chowder and fabulous fish and shrimp. But it’s so much more. The old trees, the Spanish moss, the crisscross sidewalks and entertainment gazebo in the middle, the arts and crafts and jewelry from 130 vendors all conspire for a weekend of wow. Bartram Park at the south end of the Square is set aside just for little ones. Here kids rule with interactive arts, crafts and face painting. Local educators from Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory provide a free touch pool for children to experience live sea creatures. There’s live entertainment throughout each day, so come early and stay late.