Monday, July 23, 2012

Why Aren't We Flying? Because Getting There is Half the Fun. You Know That.

This past Saturday, we attended the Middle Eastern festival at St. George Orthodox Christian Church, and as we tucked in to eat, I noticed the following on the back of the menu handout we were given at the admission gate: Watch for the Middle Eastern Festival in 2014 at our new location in Fishers. St. George Orthodox Church will NOT hold a Festival in 2013 because of our relocation. Follow our news at

Super. Yet another instance of something nice in Indianapolis fleeing to the exurbs. We’ve only been attending the Middle Eastern Festival for a few years now, in part because we had stopped attending the Greek Festival, at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, when that congregation decamped for newer digs in Carmel. Their church was repurposed, and I hope that something similar happens to the St. George church (though its location at 40th and Sherman is not quite as desirable as the former location of the Greek Orthodox Church, at 40th and Pennsylvania).

I don’t remember, exactly, how we came to start going to the Greek Festival every year—but it was some combination of hearing about it from my mom and a burgeoning interest, for both Amy and myself, in Greek food; and getting there, as they say, was half the fun. The church was at 40th and Pennsylvania, and if you didn’t get there early, you could pretty much count on parking several blocks away and walking. We both love to walk, so that was never an issue; and it was always nice to look at the big, expensive houses along Pennsylvania Street (the church is in the southwest corner of the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood).

The Greek Festival was always packed, and it was often difficult to maneuver in the relatively small space that was set up for the festival behind the church. You would spend most of your time standing in line for food, and then standing in line to get pastries on your way out. There was dancing and music and church tours and an Athenian marketplace, and it was all very lovely and expensive. It was one of the first festivals we attended on a regular basis, and it was a good introduction to the world of summer festivals in Indianapolis. We gave it up when they moved to Carmel. It would not have been much fun to get there, and I’m not big on the pretension of the affluent. Also, their mayor, Jim Brainard, is batshit fucking crazy. There are roundabouts everywhere up there, and they would rather you do something about your vinyl or aluminum siding, instead of just letting it sit there on your house looking, you know...urban.

We had always known about the Middle Eastern Festival, but we had never attended it. There was no particular reason for that, I don’t think—and there are just too many festivals to get to them all, especially with my work schedule. I guess if I’m being honest, the location was part of it—40th and Sherman is within shouting distance of what is known as the Meadows (which isn’t quite the same as the Griswolds taking the wrong exit trying to cross the river in St. Louis, but it might be close). After we lost the Greek Festival, we decided to finally give the Middle Eastern Festival a shot—and wished almost immediately that we had tried it out sooner. It might well have replaced the Greek Festival before those pinheads did their part to contribute to urban sprawl.

The only thing the Greek Festival had that the Middle Eastern Festival didn’t have was that long walk down Pennsylvania Street so you could look at the fancy houses. (At 40th and Sherman, there are no fancy houses.) In its place, the Middle Eastern Festival has this quaint little thing called “parking.” Everything else at the Middle Eastern Festival is better: the food is just as good, and it’s less expensive; there are practically no lines for food (or, at least, there have never been significant lines for food any of the times we have been); and the line for pastries, though there is one, isn’t nearly like standing in line for pastries at the Greek Festival. The Middle Eastern Festival also has dancing and music; and an indoor marketplace (though not an Athenian one, obviously). They also have a silent auction and a small bookstore.

But now it’s going away, too. Like I said, though, there are tons of festivals in and around the city, so it won’t be like we suddenly have nothing to do in the summer. And I’m not really disappointed that a church is moving so that its metastasizing congregation has more room to sit when they do their congregating on Sunday mornings. Most of the time I’m completely indifferent to churches and the things they do—and I’m entirely indifferent, 100% of the time, to what they’re trying to sell; but every now and then they manage to do something of interest to the greater community, and that was the niche occupied by both the Greek Festival and the Middle Eastern Festival. I’ll miss those festivals, but there are plenty of other festivals, right here in the city. There is almost no valid reason ever to enter Hamilton County; patronizing a festival that supports people who decided to skip town just because it got a little crowded certainly does not pass muster.

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