This weekend, the grounds of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church on Highland will smell like olive oil, oregano, roast lamb, and crispy char-grilled chicken. Heaven, in other words. The Memphis Greek Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary on Friday, May 9th, and Saturday, May 10th. In honor of this big, fat milestone, here's a brief history of this beloved Memphopolis institution.
• 500 B.C.: Democracy is invented in Athens by Cleisthenes, an Athenian of noble birth, who did away with the old tribal system and developed a government that was semi-inclusive and somewhat participatory, where every freeborn adult male citizen had the right to throw his weight around.
• 399 B.C.: After pioneering the western world's most influential school of philosophy based on logical inquiry and self-knowledge, Socrates, a talky stone mason, discovers problems in early democracy when he's put to death for introducing Athenian youth to radical ideas about freedom and justice.
• 1958 A.D.: In Memphis, Tennessee, democracy and logic are perfected when distant descendents of Cleisthenes and Socrates decide it only makes sense to give the people what they want: delicious spinach and feta cheese pies served in wax paper at a reasonable price. The Memphis Greek Festival is born! There is music and dancing. Manly men kiss other manly men, and it's not weird. Much.
• 2008 A.D.: The Memphis Greek Festival introduces Nicos, a hairy, toga-wearing cartoon reveler who looks like a Mennonite at a Rainbow Gathering. He is the event's new mascot, but don't let that scare you away.
Memphis Greek Festival at the annunciation greek orthodox church, Friday, May 9th-Saturday, May 10th, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. $2. Parking is free. Shuttle-bus rides will be available from Crichton College and Poplar Plaza.