Talk about a Greek revival!
Thousands came out last weekend to celebrate the food, music, and history of the cradle of Western civilization at the ninth annual Greek Cultural Festival, held by Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church on 84th Street between Third Avenue and Ridge Boulevard.
The event doubled as a fundraiser for the church as well as the church’s Dimitrios and Georgia Kaloidis Parochial School and its youth programs. It also enlightened both Hellenes and non-Hellenes of the great ideas Greece has given the world, organizers say.
“The Greek Festival is an attempt to expose this culture that has contributed so much to the Western hemisphere,” said Father Gerasimos Makris, a second-generation Greek-American, who pointed out that democracy was born in ancient Athens and that the original Christian scriptures were written in Greek. “We have this amazing culture that was a light and a beacon, not just in philosophy, but in religion.”
The festivities featured a team of historical re-enactors called the Greek Warriors, who dressed up in hoplite armor; music from singer Yanni Papastefanou and DJ Bobby; traditional Greek dancers; and, of course, tons of homemade Greek food whipped up for the occasion.
“We’re not talking your run-of-the-mill sausage and peppers you see at these street fairs,” said festival chairman Evans Kotsis. “It’s like if you had a Greek grandmother or Greek grandfather, and then went to their house to eat.”
Kotsis said the cuisine was a huge hit with festival visitors.
“We went through thousands of pounds of pork, thousands of souvlaki, a couple thousand gyros,” Kotsis recalled.
And besides one-of-a-kind food, Kotsis said the festival committee went out of its way to have unique vendors, including stalls selling handmade jewelry and craft items. It was all part of an effort to stand out from most Brooklyn fairs while still being inclusive, serving far more than the 500-odd families in Holy Cross’s parish.
“It’s not a typical Greek festival, where it’s really tight-knit and small and hokey, this is open to everybody,” said Kotsis, noting that it drew people not just from Bay Ridge, but from across the city and from as far away as Boston and Rhode Island.
And now that all the planning and all the cooking is done, what’s next for Holy Cross and the festival committee?
“Once we all fall asleep for two weeks and relax, we’ll start in on next fall’s event,” said Kotsis.