Enjoy culture and cuisine at the Greek Festival


What’s more Greek than baklava, dancing and icons? Probably St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church’s Greek Festival, where you can enjoy all these things next weekend.

“(The festival) is just something to share with the community,” said Demi Emmanouil, an organizer of the festival. “Let them try our food, listen to our music, see the dance troupe.”

The festival has been going on since before the church was built in 2010, according to Alex Maurakis, a festival organizer.

“We used to have our festival off of Bypass Road in Williamsburg,” Maurakis said. “One of our parishioners owns a hotel, and we used to set up a tent in the parking lot and that’s where we had the Greek Festival.”

Today, the festival is held in the church’s Hellenic Center on Mooretown Road. Marukis said the event has grown tremendously in the past several years.

“It’s something that I feel the community looks forward to every year,” Marukis said. “We have two festivals, one in the fall and one in the spring … it’s just something that has, of course, grown through experience and word of mouth in what we offer.”

What’s a Greek festival without Greek food? Some of the most popular dishes, according to Demmouil, are pastitsio, a Greek lasagna made with ground beef and topped with a bechamel sauce, and spanakopita, a phyllo pie made with spinach and feta cheese.

“It’s kind of a taste of Greece in the U.S. I guess,” Emmanouil said. “It’s all authentic food because we make everything there, it’s all fresh nothing is frozen, the women’s group makes everything.”

Maurakis’s favorite part of the event is watching the dance troupes perform traditional Greek folk dances. Dancers range from kindergarteners to college-aged youths.

“I grew up doing all these festivals, I grew up in the church of Newport News, so I just remember how I would love to help, love to volunteer, but at the same time I loved going out to perform with my dance group,” Maurakis said. “I don’t dance anymore, but I’m one of the instructors. It’s just a good way for the kids to hold onto their culture, and the public likes seeing it because it’s different.”

If you’d like to learn more about the church, Emmanouil said there will be tours of the church’s building throughout the festival.

“Our tour guide this year, he’s actually in the process of becoming a deacon, so he is very knowledgeable of the Greek religion and the icons, and he just reviews all of that and the traditions that go with the religion,” Emmanouil said.

Emmanouil said there will also be a marketplace with about 20 vendors this year.

“We have jewelry vendors, we have an icon vendor — all sorts,” Emmanouil said.

Maurakis said all of the money raised from the festival goes back to the church.

“This is just our means of fundraising,” Maurakis said. “Obviously the church stays afloat through the parishioners just keeping it up, but this is just our way of giving back to the community through a weekend to basically just feel Greek.”

Want to go?

The festival is 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 17-18, noon to 7 p.m. May 19, St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 4900 Mooretown Road. Admission is free; food costs extra. Learn more at stdemva.com/festival.

Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.

Copyright © 2019, The Virginia Gazette