Tragedy tinges weekend revels

Festivals, weddings go on, affected by terrorist attacks

`You do have mixed feelings'

September 16, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

People calling the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Baltimore last week wanted to know one thing: "Is the Greek festival still going on?"

Yes, said organizers of the 30th annual Athenian Agora, but it would not be as festive as originally planned.

It was a sentiment echoed at many events around Maryland yesterday as Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington cast a pall over events big and small - from a Greek festival in Baltimore to a young bride's wedding in Mount Washington. Nevertheless, people tried to go on with life as they knew it.

"You do have mixed feelings," Greek festival treasurer Ted Vlahoyiannis said of the church's decision to go ahead with the event. "But people want to celebrate living and they need a diversion."

But it was nearly impossible yesterday to get away from things terror-related as television and radio news and the look on many faces overshadowed some long-scheduled events, while others were postponed.

There are no Orioles baseball games this weekend, no crowds from Camden Yards at Harborplace, no shouting Ravens football fans, either. There will be no kayaking or canoeing at the Jones Falls Valley Celebration today, which was postponed, as well. And no boats will race on the Chesapeake Bay in the 20th annual Hospice Cup, a fund-raiser for eight hospices in Virginia, Maryland and Washington.

Hospice Cup organizers said a factor in the decision to postpone the race were new restrictions that limit access to the Annapolis Naval Station, where sponsors were to board boats to view the races.

"Besides, it just didn't seem appropriate to have a big festive party," Hospice Cup publicist Dave Cyphers said. "Everyone decided that most weren't up to it." The event will be rescheduled.

Some events that did go forward didn't go quite as planned.

J.J. Cummings Floral Co. in Baltimore created floral arrangements for two weddings yesterday, despite having never received a shipment of tropical flowers and tulips ordered weeks ago.

And although "Cinema Sundays," a film series at the Charles Theatre in Baltimore, will start as planned today, organizers won't open it with the critically acclaimed Our Song. The film never arrived from the distributor in New York. Instead, moviegoers will be treated to the film Himalaya.

Gabe Wardell, the film series' host, wasn't deterred.

"We're not going to let this keep us pinned in our homes," Wardell said. "Himalaya takes us to another part of the world. It's escapism, but we need to turn off the TV and get away for a few hours."

For some who attended the Greek festival, the event was a soothing distraction.

"I don't consider this a festival; it's a comfort zone. It's centered around the church," parish President Michael Bouloubassis said.

"Democracy is a Greek concept and we're very proud of our democracy and being free. If we canceled the festival it would be reneging on that," Bouloubassis said.

Each day of the Greek festival will begin with a prayer to mourn and remember the thousands lost in Tuesday's terrorist attacks, and a portion of the event's proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross and the International Orthodox Christian Charities to aid relief efforts.

At noon, hundreds of festivalgoers stopped eating their gyros and baklava and joined in prayer.

"Please be heartened," the Very Rev. Constantine M. Monios said to the crowd. "We are here to celebrate the great strength of America."

Church members not only prayed for those who were lost, but also for parishioners of St. Nicholas, a small Greek Orthodox church located near the World Trade Center. It was destroyed when the towers collapsed.

Meanwhile yesterday, at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Mount Washington, Elizabeth Rodgers married A. Porter Collins.

Nearly 60 guests missed the wedding because they were unable to fly to Baltimore. The flower girl was stranded in England and another guest was stuck in Mexico.

"Wherever they are, they're there and can't move," said the bride's sister, Rose Marie Potter, as she helped Rodgers prepare for the wedding. "But she is thrilled that she is alive to get married."

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