This year’s St. Nicholas Greek Folk Festival brings an array of Greek music, dance, food and drink to three blocks of Ponca St.
“It’s a celebration of Greek culture,” said Jason Filippou, who spoke to the Guide in place of the primary organizers, who are “swamped” with final preparations for the festival, which more or less extends down Ponca St. from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church south to the Plateia, a building and grounds designed for large functions.
Filippou noted that the Folk Festival is “one of the last free festivals in Baltimore,” and the festival’s website, greekfolkfestival.org, states that it is “the largest Hellenic festival in the Baltimore-metropolitan region.”
For festival-goers, this means that the Folk Festival features a huge variety of traditional Greek food.
“All the food is home-cooked at the church,” said Filippou.
Gyros are a perennial favorite, and new this year is a vegetarian gyro. Other dishes include the octopus platter, lamb on the spit, souvlaki, spanakopite, and many more.
“Obviously, the main attraction—and this may just be something I like—is the honey balls,” said Filippou.
In Greek, they are “loukoumades.”
In addition to food for sale, there are cooking demonstrations throughout the weekend as well, so attendees can learn to make the classics—baklava, spanakopite and dolmades.
Festival dnks, including Mythos Greek beer and ouzo, as well as frappes—Greek iced coffee—are as popular as the food.
Musicians—some from Greece and some with Greek heritage—participate in the celebrations. Kalomira, a Greek American reality-show winner, performs Friday night; Vaggelis Konitopoulos headlines on Saturday night.
Fresh 94.7 FM’s Tommy McFly, who emceed the White House Easter Egg Roll, will host the Folk Festival’s opening ceremony on Thursday evening. The opening will also include a demonstration by the Evzones, a group of locals trained by Stavros Katsas of Ponca St., who served in the Greek Army. In Greece, the Evzones guard the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Like most ethnic festivals, the Greek Folk Festival will feature traditional dance by children and adults.
The festival centers on St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. Throughout the festivities, tours of the church will be available.
The festival website, greekfolkfestival.org, states, “The long-term aim of the festival and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is to establish a permanent cultural center to ensure continuity in the artistic life of future generations of Greek-Americans and their fellow citizens. Many realities for migrant communities have started as dreams. Let us hope that this is no exception.”
by Erik Zygmont