Greekfest kicked off at 11 a.m. on Friday, and by 11:05 a.m. it was already in full swing.
Showing up early to avoid the crowds turned out to be a popular idea. Scores of people lined up at the food stands, braving the heat to get their hands on some of their favorite Greek dishes.
Outside, smoke poured from the many grills that are pressed into service each year for three days of hard labor. The gyro line, though vast, moved quickly and the mood was decidedly upbeat. People chatted loudly with their neighbors in an effort to compete with the rousing Greek music that blared through the loudspeaker and inspired a few to bust a move or two.
Nearby, sounds of “Opa” filled the air, capturing the attention of some who waited in the gyro line. The Saganaki spectacle always manages to coax a smile from bystanders, playing out as it has hundreds, if not thousands, of times before. To execute the dish, volunteers carefully cut squares of Kefalotiri cheese and saute them until golden brown before setting them alight with brandy, amidst the cries of “opa.” The crowd-pleaser never seems to get old, nor do the flaming photos shared on many social media accounts.
Some festivalgoers, pressed for time, ordered their food “to go,” while others headed to the bright yellow tent erected on the grounds. Patricia Peters and her husband, Mike, sat with their daughter in front of a fan that blew a cool mist over the crowd. The Harrisburg residents brought their 5-year-old daughter Charlotte to the event.
When questioned about her favorite food, Charlotte’s eyes grew wide. She carefully selected a piece of calamari, put it in her mouth and broke into a big smile. Then, as if to indicate that wasn’t all, she grabbed a slice of spanakopita and bit off a big bite before breaking out in giggles. “Charlotte likes everything here,” said Patricia, adding that the new seasoned Greek fries are a must-try.
Inside the main building, most tables were filled by 11:30 a.m. Carrie Conn traveled from Lancaster and was overheard recommending the chocolate-dipped strawberries to her friend Deb Kinney from Millerstown, who was a festival first timer.
“They’re from Mantangos,” said Conn, which prompted her mother, Carol Marquez, to reminisce about the Harrisburg candy store. “We used to go there when you were a kid,” said Marquez of Newport. Mother and daughter, although differing on their favorite dishes, said they each liked something that they don’t usually enjoy elsewhere. “I like the moussaka, and I don’t like eggplant,” Marquez said.
“And I don’t like meatloaf, or formed meat of any kind, but I love the meatballs here,” said Conn, referring to the Greek meatballs in tomato sauce, otherwise known as Keftedes.
After eating in the main building, many took the time to venture to the cool basement to check out the shops selling everything from fidget spinners, to jewelry, crafts and apparel.
Katherine Kamouski was handing out maps and stickers that said “Opa” and “Yassou,” a Greek greeting. For Kamouski, it’s a family endeavor. “I’ve been helping my father Peter Capataides, has it been 45 years?” she asked herself. “We are giving back to the community, sharing our heritage, our religion, our customs, and of course, our food.”