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Festivals: Summer in the city means ethnic celebrations. The Showcase of Nations begins this weekend with the Polish Festival in Patterson Park, the Italian Festival in Little Italy and the Greek Festival at Saint Nicholas on Ponca Street.

June 10, 1999|By SANDRA CROCKETT | SANDRA CROCKETT,SUN STAFF

It's summertime in Baltimore, at least judging by the temperature, and that means it's festival time. The city's series of ethnic festivals kicks off tomorrow and continues into early fall.

The festivals are a chance for the area's ethnic communities to celebrate their heritage and for others to join in. It's a tradition that's been going on for decades in Baltimore.

This year will mark the 45th anniversary of the Greek Folk Festival, one of three fests going on this weekend. The others are the Polish Festival, which takes place in Patterson Park, and the Italian Festival, in Little Italy near the Church of St. Leo the Great.

FOR THE RECORD - Because of incorrect information supplied to The Sun, hours listed in yesterday's Live section for the Greek Folk Festival were wrong. The hours are 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. today, tomorrow and Sunday. The telephone number provided to The Sun also was incorrect. It should be 410-633-5020.
The Sun regrets the errors.

For the Greek Folk Festival, Greek-Americans and others will travel from all over the area, organizers say, to descend on Baltimore's Highlandtown, home to a large Greek population.

The Greek festival will be held at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at 520 Ponca St.

"I live in Carney now, but I was born and raised in Highlandtown," says Nora Kefalas, one of the chairs of the festival. "And even though I live in Carney, we still go to church there. It's more like home."

According to Kefalas and other organizers, many immigrants arrived in America from Greece around World War II, looking for jobs in Baltimore's port and in the steel industry.

"They chose Highlandtown because it was close to the work force," says Kefalas, whose parents were born in Greece. Highlandtown also had many affordable houses and a nearby trolley stop that was convenient for people working at the port or at Bethlehem Steel.

Some of the Greek immigrants also worked in the restaurant business and at other "odds and ends," Kefalas says.

Important anchors for the Greek community were and remain the churches, and that includes St. Nicholas, the festival site. The services are mostly in Greek with some English, she says.

Kefalas, a homemaker and mother of two, believes it is important to keep the culture alive for young people.

"My parents came over here to better their lives, and we should recognize where they came from," she says. "I think that is something very important for my children to learn. It helps them to build their self-esteem and to understand other people."

Greek dancing, food and crafts will be a part of the festival.

"We would like everyone to come out and sample our cultural heritage," she says. "Come out and see what it's about."

The Italian festival will be held Saturday and Sunday near St. Leo's, which is in the 200 block of South Exeter Street. There will be a pasta and ravioli dinner in the church school hall, a cash bingo game at the Little Italy Lodge next door, a wine garden, a Sunday boccie tournament and Italian foods including fried dough, pizza and cannoli.

The Baltimore Polish Festival will be held tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday at Patterson Park. Part of the Polish festival will include a bike race in Patterson Park to benefit the Police Athletic League. (For bike race information, call 410-685-7755, or go to http://www.lateralstress.org on the Web.)

The following week will see the International Festival, June 18-19, at Market Place near Port Discovery and the Inner Harbor. This year's theme is "Year of the Children," and some activities will be held at Port Discovery.

It's the fourth year for the festival, says chairman Jesse E. Hoskins.

Later on in the summer, the AFRAM festival takes place Aug. 6-8 in the infield at Pimlico Race Course. It draws more than 100,000 people over the weekend, the organizers say.

Then there is the Hispanic Festival, Aug. 14-15.

Performers representing countries from around the globe, including El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Spain, Santo Domingo, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Puerto Rico, will be at the Hispanic Festival.

"There will be singers, a guitar player and flamenco dancers from Spain," says Delfina Pereda, the chairman of the festival, which will be held at Market Place downtown.

"We have games for the children and a beautiful orchestra from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. This is the 25th anniversary of the festival."

Tables will be set up for people needing community information. The festival will be held Aug. 14, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Aug. 15, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The official ceremony will be Aug. 14 at 3 p.m., says Pereda, who is from Guatemala.

Robert Sheppard is chairman of the German Festival. "It will be held Aug. 20, 21, 22 in Carroll Park," he says. "And this will be the 99th annual German festival. It will be held noon to 10 p.m. all three days. There will be plenty of food, crafts, music and activities for the children."

The Caribbean Festival will be held Sept. 10-12 at Carlins Park Drive and Druid Park Drive. There will be a parade, a carnival city and steel drum bands, says Elaine Simon, an organizer for the festival.

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