NEW YORK – More than 400 expatriates, and philhellenes, attended the Greek Independence Parade Gala at the New York Hilton Hotel in Midtown on April 21. The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York holds the annual event on the Saturday right before the parade.
Chairman of the event was PSEKA President, Philip Christopher. The Grand Marshals of the parade, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and businessman and philanthropist Pantelis Boumbouras who arrived from Odessa were also present. Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, however, due to commitments, could not attend.
The many officials from Greece were also present including Minister of Tourism Elena Kountoura, the Central Macedonia District Director Apostolos Tzitzikostas, the Mayor of Chios Manolis Vournos, and the Mayor of Corfu Konstantinos Nikolouzos.
Even after the long flight back from Constantinople and having arrived in New York only a few hours earlier, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America, attended the dinner.
All eyes were on the Evzones, the Presidential Guard, who stood guard at the entrances to the hall and by the stage, making everyone proud.
Messages on national issues
The National Anthems of the USA and Greece were sung by Miss Greek Independence, Annamaria Fazio, and Eleni Papastefanou, respectively.
Philip Christopher then thanked the Hellenic-American organizations for their efforts, noting that everyone has a duty to fight for the issues “in these dangerous times.”
AHEPA President Carl Hollister compared 1821 with the difficulties Greece is experiencing today and Turkish provocation, pointing out that “Greece faces a threat to its independence.”
Echoing the same sentiments was AHI President Nick Laryngakis, while Rep. Carolyn Maloney focused on Macedonia as well as on other Greek issues, such as the return of the Parthenon marbles.
On behalf of the Republic of Cyprus, Fotis Fotiou, Commissioner for Human Rights and Overseas Cypriots, urged attendees “not to forget Cyprus,” noting that there is an ongoing struggle for a free Cyprus.
Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura spoke of the “wonderful evening” and focused on the multi-faceted contributions of the Greek-American community and the development of tourism from the USA to Greece, thanks to Emirates Airlines, which year-round connects Athens with New York via direct flights.
Grand marshal and Nassau County DA Madeline Singas recalled her childhood and her participation in the 5th Avenue parade, from nursery school until she joined the Hellenic American Lawyers Association, and was visibly moved by the memories.
“If my father and grandfather are now watching from above, I would like to add ‘Long live Northern Epirus,’” she concluded.
The other grand marshal, Pantelis Boumbouras, acknowledged the efforts of the Greek community, sending out a message that Greece needs support, in order to gradually get out of the quagmire.
“We will overcome all the problems and I hope that the Greek diaspora community will quickly help the country to find its way,” he said.
Finally, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, compared the present day with the first year he attended the parade, back in the year 2000, advising the public to reflect on the changes brought about by a completely different world with a different approach to things in order to appreciate the situation and adopt the attitude that fits with the season.
The organizers honored the parade benefactors and, in particular, the Boumbouras Foundation, Atlantic Bank, and Emirates, who were the “Great Benefactors,” as well as the supporters, AHEPA, Alma Bank, Konstantinos Almiroudis, American Network Solutiond LLC., Savvas Konstantinidis, Michael and Alice Halkias, Stavros Haviaras, Investors Bank, Yiannis Kalafatis, Dimitris and Georgia Kaloidis, Tom Kourkoumelis, LibraGroup, Mana Products Inc., Dennis Mehiel, EOT, John and Eleni Psaras, Dr. Spiros Spireas, and Steve Zervoudis.
Everyone was ready to attend the parade on 5th Avenue the following day.