Chris Pangalos has always loved history. He loves sports and the military, too.
“As a kid, I was fascinated by legends and myths, the Greco-Persian war,” he said. “I never outgrew it.”
Far from it, as a matter of fact. Pangalos took his love for history and fighting the good fight and created the Warriors of Greece, a re-enactment group based in Charlotte, North Carolina, that travels to festivals, schools, and events, bringing to life the history of ancient Greece.
Pangalos and two members of his team will be in Houston this week as Houston Greek Fest kicks off at St. Basil the Great Greek Orthodox Church. The weekend—not to be confused for Montrose's Original Greek Festival—is a celebration of all things Hellenic, with traditional foods, dancing, shopping, and a chance to experience firsthand how much Greeks love throwing a party—and also how much Greeks love Greece.
Dressed in full Spartan warrior gear, complete with breast plate and sword, the Greek Warriors will be roaming the festival grounds, posing for photos and answering questions about Greek military history. Pangalos is also hosting history lectures on Friday and Saturday, bringing to life the battles of Thermopylae and Marathon, and talking about Greece’s domination of the sea.
“It’s going to be a lot fun!” said Pangalos, whose troupe has won awards for their presentations across the U.S. “Kids really get into it. They love to touch the armor and see that it’s real metal. I love seeing their excitement.”
Pangalos said he strives to combine education and entertainment when he talks about Greek military history. For him, the history is so action-packed, he wants to keep people on the edge of their seats as he talks about various battles.
“These guys show how important it is to take a stand,” he said of the Spartans. “They didn’t back down. They took on the biggest empire in the world.”
The Warriors of Greece are only one of the cultural attractions at Greek Fest. Throughout the weekend, there will also be tours of St. Basil the Great Greek Church, and Greek dancing featuring children as young as 4 to high-schoolers, showcasing the moves of mainland Greece and the islands. There’s also a contest wherein non-Greeks can try their hands—or feet—at dancing (the winner walks away with $250).
Greek Fest also features a host of Greek dishes, including spanakopita, gyros, dolmades, and the signature OPA-rita drink, a margarita-style frozen concoction made with ouzo, the anise-flavored spirit.
All of that should have Houstonians saying “Opa!”
Houston Greek Fest, May 17—20. Admission $3 or free with the three canned goods. St. Basil the Great Greek Orthodox Church, 1100 Eldridge Pkwy. 713-588-0411. More info and tickets at houstongreekfest.com.