Good food, good music and good dancing at 11th annual Greek Festival in Bel Air

Taking part in the annual Greek Festival, sponsored by the Sts. Mary Magdalene and Markella Greek Orthodox Church, of Darlington, has become a family affair for church member Christina Sorrells during her four-and-half-years at the church.

"It's a great opportunity, really, to support the church," Sorrells said Saturday during a short break from ringing up festival visitors who purchased traditional Greek foods prepared by other church members, including her husband.

Sorrells' two children were part of a church youth dance troupe performing traditional Greek dances.

"We really enjoy taking part in helping out and supporting the church, as well as enjoying the Greek music and the family around us," said Sorrells, who wore a light blue T-shirt with the words "Opa, dance like a Greek," on the back, along with images of a man and woman dancing.

The 11th annual Greek Festival, the largest annual fundraiser for the church, was held Friday, Saturday and Sunday at The John Carroll School in Bel Air. Visitors could check out dancing, pastries and vendors, or sit, eat and socialize in the school gym.

Dance troupes from Sts. Mary Magdalene and Markella and other Greek Orthodox churches in the Baltimore region performed.

Tables laden with items for a silent auction were in the hallways outside the gym. Visitors also gathered in the courtyard to enjoy their meals outdoors — plus, they could enjoy the smell of loukoumades, or fried dough dipped in honey and dusted with powdered sugar or cinnamon, available at the Sweet Greek Grill stand.

People lined up for the loukoumades and other desserts, along with Greek and American-style entrees.

Church members were hard at work in the school kitchen preparing food such as roasted seasoned meats on skewers, gyros and salads, as well as American fare such as hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries.

"It's been very good today . . . we had a line out the door for food," festival chair Paula Steber said as she gave an Aegis reporter a tour of the festival Saturday evening.

The Greek Festival moved to John Carroll in 2014, as it is easier to accommodate the crowds at the school rather than the church campus.

"It's our way to introduce the community to Greek culture, our food, our dance and our faith as well," the Rev. Gregory Gilbert, the church's presiding priest, said.

Festival organizers had to take extra security measures Saturday afternoon as police responded to a report of person with a firearm on Harford Community College's campus east of Bel Air.

Police were alerted around 2 p.m., and the college campus was closed for about two hours as officers searched for a suspect. No shooter was found, and there were no reports of shots being fired.

After hearing about the HCC situation, Greek Festival organizers responded by locking all doors in John Carroll's main building, other than the front entrance, to better monitor who was coming in and out of the festival, according to Gilbert.

Festival security personnel also stepped up their monitoring, the priest said.

"We just heightened our awareness," Gilbert said.

Police gave the all clear at HCC between 4:15 and 4:30 p.m., after which a steady stream of Greek Festival visitors could be seen coming in and out of the school, and people were enjoying the dancing, food and vendors.

Vendors Joe and Michelle Brotman, of Churchville, were selling fidget spinner toys, along with other collectible items.

The Brotmans, who are not affiliated with the church, reported enjoying the festival itself and working with organizers.

"It's a nice family-oriented atmosphere," Joe Brotman said. "The people in charge are easy to work with."

Linda and Scott Starry, of Ellicott City, made their first visit to the Greek Festival Saturday.

The couple agreed that it was worth the 45 minute to an hour trip from the Howard County seat.

"It's wonderful," Linda Starry said as she and her husband sat in the courtyard.

Scott Starry said a friend encouraged him to come to the festival, that there was someone Starry should meet there.

"I said, 'Have they got Greek food?'" Starry recalled. "He said, 'yes,' I said, 'I'm going!'"

Neither is of Greek descent, but Scott Starry said he enjoys Greek food, noting that he likes eating the foods "of all kinds of different places because I'm a glutton."

Linda Starry said her knowledge of Greek culture extends to the "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" movies.

"It's a nice atmosphere, nice people, good food," she said of the festival.

Visit http://stsmm.org for more information on the church.

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