ATHENS, Alabama — If the Greek goddess Athena wanted to dine on a fried corn fritter, she would feel at home in Athens on Saturday.
The city will stage the inaugural Athens Grease Festival to celebrate the Greek origin of its name and Southerners’ love of all things fried.
The Spirit of Athens will present the quirky event on The Square that will include fried food contests, Olympic-themed games such as a turkey toss, music, children’s activities and crafts. Admission is $5, $4 for toga wearers and free to children 12 and younger. Proceeds go to downtown revitalization.
To add to the spirit, downtown will display a variety of Greek decorations, and one downtown restaurant will sell Greek style food. Other vendors will sell items such as fried catfish, fried ice cream, fried Nutter Butters and other grease-bursting treats.
To get the Greek god treatment, attendees can buy VIP tickets for $50. The VIP area will offer a Herculean buffet of food donated by area restaurants, access to a television to watch football and activity tickets.
Among the food vendors, Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks and City Council President Jimmy Gill will make and sell fried bologna sandwiches and fried rib sandwiches. Proceeds go to the Trinity/Fort Henderson Restoration Project that will showcase black history in the area.
Festival Chairwoman Christy Hubbard said the festival evolved from a suggestion made by consultants helping Athens develop a marketing brand.
“The consultants loved the Greek Revival structures in our city and our restaurants,” she said. “They created a logo for the ‘Athens Grease Festival, a Celebration of All Things Fried.’ “
Southerners love being eccentric as much as they love good food, Hubbard said, and Spirit of Athens members saw the festival as an ideal way to bring visitors to The Square for a day of family fun and to keep the art form of traditional Southern cooking alive.
The Spirit of Athens said it is aware of a recent report that puts Alabama fourth nationally for its obesity rate.
“We’re not saying you need to eat fried foods every day and for every meal,” Spirit of Athens Director Trisha Black said. “But it is OK to resurrect recipes from our Southern mothers and grandmothers now and then and treat yourself.”
To encourage exercise, the Athens-Limestone Hospital Wellness Center is sponsoring a Toga Run at 9 a.m., a local bicycle club is conducting a bike ride for its members and there will be a Toga Boogie Flash Mob. For children, there will be bouncers, Zumba and a dance class. All activities are posted on the festival’s schedule of events page.
The festival also starts a new recycling project for cooking oils. Attendees can learn how to get proper containers and collect used cooking oil and get it to local recyclers. Local farmers will buy the recycled grease to use as biodiesel fuel for their farm equipment. Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful will collect vendors’ cooking grease during the festival to sell to farmers.