The Hoplites are coming

If it's May, it's time for the Greek Festival at St. Sophia's Greek Orthodox Church in Albany.

But be prepared: in addition to souvlaki and baklava, The Greek Warriors will be adding a live taste of ancient Greek warfare to the festival. Expect at least four members of the historical re-enactment group to be showing off their hand-made arms and armor, and a few battle stances, between Friday and Sunday, May 18 to 20.

The Greek Warriors grew out of Staten Island native George Mercinek's collection of ancient Greek art and architecture. After crafting his own helmets complete with horsehair helmet crest and shields, he looked for a way to put them to use.

"I wanted to do something with this, and I got my brother enlisted," Mercinek said. "The best medium for this was Greek festivals."

Peter Giakoumis joined up with the Mercinek brothers to form the band of warriors. They're now at 22 members, and were one of the favorites at the April Greek Independence Day parade in New York City.

"Some of our church members saw them there and said they were amazing," said Maria Neal, publicity spokeswoman of the St. Sophia's festival.

Both Mercinek and Neal agreed that the movie "300," about the Spartans' stand against the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC has made Greek warriors " and all things Greek " more popular.

Not that St. Sophia's festival needed much of a push in the popularity department. Now in its 37th year, more than 25,000 visitors attend the festival each year.

"This is a unique festival," Neal said. "It's like a big party. Our chairman, George Sokaris, is always looking for new things."

If the Greek warriors are new, the sit-down restaurant and the more casual outside tent are part of the draw.

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