Greek fest serves up food and cul­ture

45th an­nual event draws crowds to city com­mu­nity

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Car­rie Wells kefi, galak­to­boureko, kefi cwells@balt­sun.com

Be­neath a mas­sive white tent on West Pre­ston Street, Maria Brown served up cups of hot Greek cof­fee, thick and foamy, made with ara­bica beans ground into a fine pow­der.

The pro­ceeds from the cof­fee stand would ben­e­fit the Greek Ortho­dox Cathe­dral of the An­nun­ci­a­tion, which hosted the 45th an­nual Greek Food and Cul­tural Fes­ti­val over the week­end. Brown and others who vol­un­teered at the cof­fee stand Sun­day send their chil­dren to the Greek school con­nected with the cathe­dral.

“We re­ally want this for our kids, to teach them about Greek reli­gion and cul­ture, so we’re here,” said Brown, 46, of Baltimore. “Most of us are ei­ther from Greece or our par­ents are from Greece, and we want to make sure our kids learn the lan­guage. You won’t find a Greek who’s not con­nected to the cul­ture.”

Geli Ioan­nou, the chair of the fes­ti­val, said at­ten­dance this year was up over last year.

“I’ve been over­whelmed by this year’s turnout and watch­ing the ef­fort and en­ergy and love and spirit and faith that our parish­ioners have ex­hib­ited dur­ing this process,” he said.

The fes­ti­val added live stream­ing this year so fam­ily mem­bers in Greece or else­where could watch at­ten­dees at the event. Ioan­nou said he was telling an older mem­ber of the church that his fam­ily in Greece watched his daugh­ter dance at the fes­ti­val.

“He looked at me in amaze­ment, and he started cry­ing,” Ioan­nou said. “It’s why we do this.”

The cathe­dral opened its doors to the pub­lic. Chris­tine Miller of Tow­son learned about a black Madonna im­ported from the is­land where a lot of peo­ple in Baltimore’s Greek com­mu­nity came from.

Miller said she at­tended the fes­ti­val in part to learn about the state of the lo­cal Greek com­mu­nity. Greek im­mi­grants were once con­cen­trated in East Baltimore. As the com­mu­nity pros­pered, fam­i­lies moved to the sub­urbs, giv­ing way to newer waves of im­mi­grants from Latin Amer­ica.

“I hope there’s still some Greek com­mu­nity left here, be­cause that has re­ally changed in High­land­town,” said Miller, 64. “They do have a church there on Eastern Av­enue. We were told that as with this church, many of the parish­ioners live else­where now: the chang­ing face of im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties.”

Pa­trons wan­dered through the white tent to pe­ruse stands of­fer­ing Greek T-shirts, flags and ce­ramic plates with im­ages of the Parthenon. Tra­di­tional Greek mu­sic played over loud­speak­ers while dif­fer­ent groups — chil­dren, young women — took turns danc­ing.

Food stands lined the sides, serv­ing gy­ros, chicken sou­vlaki, spanako­pita and desserts such as a cus­tard cov­ered with phyllo dough and in­fused with lemon­honey syrup.

Bob Horst, 77, said he had been com­ing to the fes­ti­val for 20 years. He spent Sun­day pre­par­ing chicken for the sou­vlaki.

“I’ve been cook­ing the chicken, cut­ting it up, hav­ing a ball,” said the Rosedale man, whose wife, De­spina, is Greek.

“It’s just fun,” Horst said. “We meet ev­ery­body, we talk to ev­ery­body. And we all get to­gether.” Denise Chilis said the fes­ti­val was full of

a Greek word mean­ing a feel­ing of ex­cite­ment and joy.

The Tow­son woman said she came for the food and to see old friends. She sam­pled the Greek salad, meat­balls and spanako­pita.

“There’s a lot of here,” said Chilis, 58. “A lot of ex­cite­ment, peo­ple see­ing their neigh­bors and friends. They’re danc­ing, en­joy­ing the food. It’s a won­der­ful at­mos­phere here.”

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