Philadelphia, PA – It’s the best “Bougatsa” outside of Greece, and it’s made at the biggest little Greek Festival in Philly. Evangelismos Greek Orthodox Church on Bustleton Avenue has a long tradition of making their Greek food just like they did back in the motherland. This tray like others went fast. Visitors flocked to the tent where it was being sold and bought it up as soon as it came out of the oven.
Evangelismos’ parishioners work weeks ahead of their festival preparing all kinds of sweets and pita pastries. They make their own filo dough from scratch, something unheard of today at Greek Festivals. “The festival keeps us going as a community,” said one parishioner. Like others around the Delaware Valley, it’s an economic boost they need each year to help pay for the expenses of running the church. But it’s also a way for Greeks to bond and preserve there community. Funds go towards a Greek school, dance club, and utilities, all part of the cost of managing their church.
The four-day celebration featured some of the areas best food, and even one you just can’t get anywhere else – Kontosouvli. Kontosouvli is an extra large pork souvlaki traditionally slow-roasted on a spit over an open charcoal pit. It’s also one of the star attractions to this event and gives it an authentic flair. It was the only church festival we saw it this year. Why? Probably cost. Many Greek festivals have been trimming back and raising prices, all to make more. But at Evangelismos, they still give you the big bang for your buck. You get large servings, and they keep it real.
Live music and dancing added to the atmosphere at this weekends affair. The church featured two dance groups. On Saturday night we saw a junior and senior performance. The troupes, dressed in blue and white, circled the center paddock created between two big tents, clapping and leaping into the air. Families snapped up the historic moments, while the kids put on the show. It was followed by an ensemble of musicians that sang the classic village songs of mainland Greece. Guests joined in after a meal and kept the party going late into the evening.
As this evening came to an end, this gathering echoed what they’re ancestors, and fellow Hellenes continue to do at village festivals. The parishioners gather outside, under the stars, where they join up at a table after everyone has gone. Ouzo, cold beer, conversation, and a few laughs before they do it all over again. That’s how they roll at Evangelismos.