Annual Greek Festival bridges cultural divide in Upper Darby

Greek foods attracted crowds of people and annually raises money for St. Demetrios Church while exposing Greek culture to Upper Darby Township’s multicultural population.

Spanakopita, baklava and gyros were just a few of the tastes of Greek fare available last weekend during the annual Upper Darby Greek Festival at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church. This event was one of a series of weekend festivals hosted by Greek Orthodox churches in Delaware County from May to October each year.

Volunteers from the congregation manned over 20 booths that featured specialty foods, traditional music, artesian crafts and literature from Greek culture.

GreekCrowds gathered around the Cypriot, a traditional method of seasoning and cooking meat native to Greece, which involves a lengthy process that results in the distinctive flavor for which the meat is known.

“We marinate the meat for three days with spices that come from Constantinople (Istanbul). Traditionally, these spices were traded in Greece, and we combine the spices with olive oil, oregano and other things from our area. After we marinate it, we cook it on a rotisserie over coals…there is nothing else like it,” said visitor Gol Papadakis through a cloud of fragrant smoke from the grill.

Fr. Nektarios Cottros, the presiding priest at St. Demetrios, believes the festivals accomplish much more than fundraising; they also bring more awareness of Greek culture to the respective communities.

Upper Darby Township, the largest township in America with more than 80,000 residents, is a veritable United Nations with residents from all over the world speaking over 90 different dialects and languages.

“Although our goal is to raise money for the church and the school, we are also able to share our culture with the communities surrounding our churches. This is a way for everyone to learn more about Greek culture, and of course, to enjoy the food,” Cottros said.

Congregations of several other Greek Orthodox churches in Delaware County will host festivals in their respective communities throughout the summer and early fall.

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