The Rev. Elefterios Plevrakis, the new pastor of Sts. Mary Magdalene & Markella Greek Orthodox Church in Darlington, took in the parish’s annual Greek Festival for the first time Friday evening.
Plevrakis said he had been hearing from organizers of the 12th annual festival, a major fundraiser for the parish, that the turnout had been greater Friday than prior opening nights of the three-day festival.
That’s based on indicators such as more people in line for food, a mix of traditional Greek fare such as souvlaki, a roasted leg of lamb, Greek salad, plus pastries such as loukoumades — deep-fried balls of dough with honey and cinnamon — and American fare such as hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries.
“I think we’ve done very well this year, and tomorrow, it should be an excellent day,” Fotini Kaminaris, president of the parish council and the festival chair, said.
The festival is happening at The John Carroll School in Bel Air. It will be open from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. The school is at 703 E. Churchville Road.
People can check out, in addition to food and beverages, Greek music and folk dancing, vendors, a silent auction and children’s activities. Admission is free and people can park on the school grounds. See the festival page on the parish website at http://stsmm.org/festival for more information.
“It’s not even just [about] making money, it’s tying people in the community together, Plevrakis said of the festival.
He said the event allows people of Greek heritage to “feel where they’ve been, where their roots come from,” noting religious faith is “rooted” in Greek history and culture.
Plevrakis has been priest of the parish, which has about 110 families, since he was assigned there Oct. 8, 2017. He had been ordained as a Greek Orthodox priest on Oct. 1, about a week before.
He succeeds the Rev. Gregory Gilbert, who was transferred to a parish in Pennsylvania, according to festival organizers. Gilbert has been the presiding priest of Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Upper Darby, Pa., since he was appointed on Sept. 1, 2017, according to that parish’s website.
Plevrakis went around the festival, greeting people. His two daughters and wife, Efstathia Plevrakis, who holds the title of “presvytera” in the congregation, enjoyed the festival and interacted with festival-goers.
The family, which lives in Bel Air, moved from Florida. Efstathia Plevrakis said the congregation is “very genuine and loving” and welcomed them immediately.
“We’re new to Maryland and new to the church, and it’s a nice community, very nice people,” she said.
The festival is open to people of all heritages, not just Greek.
Lauren Marzocca, 27, of Bel Air, and her boyfriend Brett Chenoweth, 25, of the Parkville/Towson area, danced to Greek music and enjoyed Greek food while in the school courtyard.
“It reminds me a lot of my Italian culture,” Marzocca, of Italian descent, said. “There’s a real family focus ... people are really passionate about the food, and everybody’s just really loud and fun.”
The couple had seen signs advertising the festival in recent days — signs stating “Greek Festival” are planted in the Route 22 median around the school entrance — and they had been looking for a dinner option Friday evening.
They enjoyed lamb sandwiches, a Greek salad, Greek wine and multiple desserts.
“It’s so good,” Marzocca said of the loukoumades, which were at the Sweet Greek Grill stand nearby.
Chenoweth said he enjoyed the many cultural aspects of the festival.
“The food is an element of the [Greek] culture, not that it’s the only thing, but one piece of it,” he said.