Paprika and pride season the mix in `Greek Village'

Festival is on Preston Street this weekend

Scene: Clubs, Bars, Nightlife

September 16, 2004|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

On a recent weekday morning, the kitchens at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Mount Vernon were jam packed with people.

Women basted trays of chicken wings, slathering them in butter and seasoning them with lemon juice, garlic and paprika before the trays were whisked away and replaced by more. Men marched around in aprons, carrying pink potholders and joking about doing "women's work" in the kitchens.

In the back room, trays containing about 10,000 freshly baked pastries were stacked up on carts, and thousands of stuffed grape leaves were sitting in the freezer. One man - in a Herculean effort - planned to bake 600 loaves of bread.

All the food is meant to be bought and consumed this weekend at the 33rd annual Greek Village Festival, a three-day event that starts tomorrow at 11 a.m.

"Greeks do everything overboard," said Tee Bond, the chair for this year's festival. "We mourn overboard, we celebrate overboard, and we bake overboard."

The enthusiasm and the preparation work for the festival contribute to the close-knit community that church members say is a part of their identity.

"The Greeks do things in a community," said Bond. "A lot of ethnic-based churches lose their memberships after several generations. We fight so hard to prevent that from happening."

The Preston Street church was purchased in 1937, and the first Greek Orthodox services were held the next year. The congregation -1,400 families - is one of the largest in Maryland.

The festival is also geared toward the community outside the church. Organizers estimate 30,000 people attended last year.

Traditionally, on Friday night of the festival, hordes of symphony-goers from the Meyerhoff - a block away from the church - spill out on the streets after the evening performance and join in the Greek festivities.

And, this year, organizers expect there will be a bump in interest due to Greece's exposure during the Olympics.

"I can't tell you how many people are saying, `We have to go to Greece because of the Olympics,'" said Gayle Economos, a member of the congregation and a fair booster. "You don't have to go anywhere; it is right here. It is a Greek Village in the heart of Baltimore."

The festival will include line-dancing lessons, people in traditional Greek costumes, live music, outdoor cafes, a silent auction, crafts and jewelry. The portion of Preston Street in front of the church will be closed off to make room for the festivities.

Fairgoers can even pick up real Greek souvenirs at the Greek Island Treasure Booth. It sells cups, T-shirts and plates that members of the congregation have collected from years of trips to their native country.

The Greek Festival is at 24 W. Preston St. Hours are 11 a.m.-midnight tomorrow and Saturday, and noon-8 p.m. Sunday.

For more club events, see Page 33.

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