COLUMBIA — St. Luke’s Greek Orthodox Church opened its arms and its kitchen to the community Saturday for the fifth annual More Than a Greek Festival.
“We have Greeks, Greek-Americans, Romanian and Eygyptian members in our congregation,” said the Rev. Michael Monos while giving tours of the church. He wore a traditional black cassock and thick silver chain bearing the cross of the Greek Church.
Members of the public were welcome to enter the nave and ask Monos questions. Visitors from as far away as St. Louis — who were in town for the MU football game — stopped by for some food and some insights into Greek Orthodox life.
Dave Pullman, of St. Louis, was on his way to the stadium when he saw cars gathered outside the church.
“Pulled up, heard the music, got some food and came in for the tour. What a rich heritage,” he said, sweeping his arm toward the tabernacle.
After a frustrating turnout last year due to bad weather, festival organizer Julia Grant moved the event to a warmer month hoping for better temperatures.
“This is also the first time we will be here on Saturday and Sunday,” she said. “The members that cook the food own restaurants in town, and they’re closed on Sundays. This year, they’ve made a bit of a sacrifice to help everyone attend that wants to.”
Grant stopped and turned to a woman nearby. “Georgia, how many people are we expecting this year?” she asked.
Georgia Pardalos, co-owner of Arris Pizza in Jefferson City, answered in a rich accent.
“In the past we’ve had between six and seven hundred people,” she said. “This year, because we will be open both days, we are hoping for twice that number.”
Pardalos and others served up traditional Greek and Romanian food. Souvlaki, potatoes, grape leaves, rice and gyros were just a small sample of what was available.
The church also brought in entertainment. Kyklos, a dance group from St. Louis dressed in traditional attire from the Mediterranean, started with the Zonaradiko, a traditional Greek dance where performers hold hands and move in a large circle around the dance floor.
The parish also hosts a church school for children, whose participants planned a dance of their own for the festival.
“It’s a chance for them to show what they’ve been learning,” Grant said.
Columbia Police Officer Gamal Castile watched the dancers with the rest of the crowd. Castile will be back on Sunday to show off his collection of Greek armor.
“Before I was a police officer, I thought about becoming a teacher of ancient history,” Castile said. “My armor started out as a Halloween costume that’s just gotten way out of hand.”
Castile will be wearing his collection, complete with helmet, shield and a Dory — a spear used by the infantry in ancient Greece.
Back inside the church, Monos welcomed another round of visitors. A group of women sat around a table preparing Greek salads.
“Baclava, who’s in charge of baclava?” asked Russel Omara, rushing in with a large empty tray. The women directed him to another room.
Monos smiled and led the new visitors into the church.
The festival will return tomorrow from noon to 8 p.m. at St. Luke's Greek Orthodox Church, 1510 Audubon Drive. More information can be found on the Missourian's neighborhoods blog.