Greek Festival a hit at John Carroll Saturday

Tita Chico, left, of Baltimore, and Alexander Orlando, visiting from Italy, look at jewelry at the Baraka ethnic jewelry and handicraft booth at the St. Nicholas Greek Folk Festival, which was held this weekend.
Tita Chico, left, of Baltimore, and Alexander Orlando, visiting from Italy, look at jewelry at the Baraka ethnic jewelry and handicraft booth at the St. Nicholas Greek Folk Festival, which was held this weekend. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun photo)

Moving the Greek Festival from Darlington to Bel Air this year didn't seem to hurt attendance over the weekend, when people streamed into the double doors of John Carroll School.

The festival, hosted by Sts. Mary Magdalene and Markella Greek Orthodox Church, attracted people and families of all ages. For some, including Greg and Carolyn Cushing, of Bel Air, it was a first-time experience..


"We saw signs all around Bel Air and we've just been out today," Carolyn Cushing said. She and her husband praised the food at the festival and were planning on checking out the rest of the festival after indulging in gyros.

"It's really laid out very nicely and I can't wait to get started," Carolyn Cushing said.

Although it wasn't the first Greek Festival for Paul and Rebecca Bailey, of Abingdon, it was the couple's first time at this event. They came for the Greek food, Paul Bailey said, but were impressed by the event as a whole.

"We've gone to ones in Baltimore, but this one is better because of the parking," Rebecca Bailey said. "The food is much better, too."

"It was all really good and fresh," she added.

For volunteer Mary Caprinolo, of Forest Hill, the Greek Festival has become a personal tradition for the past five or six years. Caprinolo typically helps with the desserts and food at the festival and supports the festival because she is a member of the church.

"We need this festival to keep our church going," she said. "It's my heritage."

Caprinolo grew up at a different Greek church in the area, but said the small church congregation at Sts. Mary Magdalene and Markella is "like family."

As a volunteer in the food area, Caprinolo also got to see first-hand the popularity of the festival food.

"We had so many people [Friday] it was wonderful," she said. "The line for the food was out of sight and we couldn't keep up with it."

The Greek Festival was certainly busy Saturday, with people roaming the John Carroll School gym with Greek entertainment by Bouzouki Nights. All ages checked out the various vendors, including handmade wreaths, Greek oils and Alexandra Fagas' stand featuring jewelry and other accessories.

Fagas, a Florida native, travels up and down the East Coast each year, visiting Greek festivals to promote her business. This was her first year at the Sts. Mary Magdalene and Markella Greek Festival, but certainly not the last.

"I like everything," she said.

It was also the first time for Jamie Batts, a Bel Air Scentsy consultant. Batts' stand at the Greek Festival was crowded Saturday afternoon as people checked out the different scents and products.


"I'm amazed at the turnout," she said. "I was not expecting this many people."

Batts, who has been a consultant for almost two years, said she "absolutely" plans on coming back to future events.

One of the young volunteers, Andrew Schuler, 9, had come from Ocean City for the event. His family is originally from Bel Air, Andrew said, adding he had been helping with the face painting for four years.

"I like all of the fun activities," he said.

In addition to vendors and food, the event featured a silent auction, selling everything from sports memorabilia to designer bags, as well as a kids corner, which offered face painting, stuffed animals and crafts.

For 4-year-old Olivia Pensero, the stuffed animals were the highlight of the festival. She hugged an orange striped cat to her chest and didn't hesitate to shout "cat" when asked what she enjoyed the most.

Becky Pensero, of Forest Hill, brought Olivia and her 2-year-old brother, Jack, to the festival on a whim, "just looking for something fun to do."

"I think it's great," she said, adding they will be back at future events.

Holding down the fort at the Kids' Corner was Chris Babiak, of Jarrettsville, who was helping out his wife, Leslie. Babiak attends Sts. Mary Magdalene and Markella Greek Orthodox Church with his wife and two sons, Sean, 8, and Jacob, 5.

"It's a nice small community," Chris Babiak said. "Everyone pitches in for all the work to get done."

The whole family helped out as well, including Jacob, who was helping his parents with the Kids' Corner and had made his own sand art "as an example" for other children. His brother, Sean, was one of the dancers in the children's performance.

"It's been going very well so far," Chris Babiak said. "It's been a very nice venue to set up and there is a lot of room in here."

Babiak also had a tidbit of trivia, adding that before the Darlington location, the church had met in the chapel at John Carroll School.

"It's kind of a nice full circle to come here for the festival," he said.