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The Athenian Society ‘Attiki’ with its president, Eleni Kariofilis TNH/STAVROS MARMARINOS
TAMPA, FL – The Cretan delegation made a remarkable finale at this year’s Greek parade held on Sunday, March 19, in the renowned ‘Greek Village’ of Tarpon Springs, Florida.
Clad in traditional attire, the tall and cheerful President of the Pancretan Association of America, James Boutzoukas, approached the podium of the reviewing stand. He filled small plastic cups with the aromatic raki from the ‘big island’ and offered the cherished libation to those who reached out to accept it. His wife stood nearby, holding a plate of appetizers, which she graciously shared with everyone. The street before them bustled with young men and women from the local Cretan club, donning the traditional garb of their respective villages. They had enlivened the crowd with customary dances, accompanied by the familiar strains of the Cretan lyre, which reverberated throughout the vicinity. “Long live Crete,” “Long live Greece and March 25th,” many spectators exclaimed, proudly waving Greek flags.
Following a solemn Doxology at the historic St. Nicholas Church, presided over by Bishop Sevastianos of Zelon, the parade commenced. The majority of attendees congregated along the central coastal street, Dodecanese Avenue, which boasts an array of Greek restaurants, pastry shops, gift stores, and other establishments.
The street echoed with marching bands, and Greek and American flags were hung everywhere. The Parade Committee had early distributed Greek flags, which the people raised and waved, chanting “Long live Greece” whenever a group passed.
Impressive, as on previous occasions, was the display of a large Greek flag held on all sides by young children and young women in national costumes. The spectacle delighted the crowd, who could not stop applauding.
Among the first groups to parade was the Florida Panhellenic Federation, led by its president, Nick Anton.
The float of the Plato Academy, consisting of both students and teachers, paraded proudly in front of the crowd. The Academy, which boasts nine charter schools located in various areas, was accompanied by the Chairman of the Plato Academy Kokkinakos, who marched with the Palm Harbor school section. Upon arriving at the VIP podium, the group came to a stop and joined the audience in singing a Greek song.
George Poumakis, the founder of the Athenian Academy, the first Greek-interest charter school in America with school facilities in Clearwater and Fort Myers, FL, received warm congratulations. Addressing the dignitaries, he spoke of a year of rebirth. The float of the Athenian Academy, with its imposing appearance, resembled an ancient temple supported on columns.
The Athenian Society’s banner followed, led by its president, Eleni Kariofili, who paused in front of the podium to reiterate her message in support of unity, Cyprus, and other national issues. She shouted, “Macedonia is Greek,” to a round of applause.
The West Florida Laconian Society held pictures with portraits of heroes of the Greek Revolution on their float. The former president of the association, Teris Tsafatinos, a well-known antiquarian, led the marchers, cheering for Hellenism and the historic anniversary.
The float of the Panhellenic Cultural Center of Florida, named ‘Prometheus’, was filled with members carrying both Greek and American flags. The float was graced by the presence of the vice president, Petros Koutsopanagos, and the renowned New York singer, Stergios Floratos. The president of the center, Efi Vassiliou, was dressed in Greek colors and marched alongside the float, waving the two Greek flags in her hands to the cheering crowd.
The Pancyprian Association of Florida carried a huge banner with the words “Never Forget,” reminding everyone of the thousands of missing persons and the ongoing occupation of northern Cyprus by the Turks. The association’s president, Varnavas Zagaris, stopped in front of the podium and denounced Turkey’s attitude, demanding the withdrawal of Turkish troops. Angela Georgiadis, the former president of the association, also rode on the Pancyprian float.
The Kalymnians’ section began with two traditionally dressed young women who symbolically held large sponges.
The Epirotes Association ‘Epirus,’ led by its president, Nora Mihopoulos, received warm applause from the crowd. Mihopoulos was dressed in Greek colors and held one side of a large banner, while her husband, Alex, held the American flag, and their daughter, Crystal, carried the flag of the Greeks of Northern Epirus.
The St. Nicholas Tarpon Springs community’s float was provided by Bill Mataragas, the president of the Hellenic American National Council, and the Holy Trinity Church Clearwater float was donated by Peter Makris.
Sections from various cities on the east coast of Florida, including Melbourne, West Palm Beach, Fort Rotterdale, Boca Raton, Fort Pierce, Miami, and Hollywood, were also present at the parade. Students from the Hollywood community danced in front of the podium.
The communities of St. George in New Port Richey and St. Barbara in Sarasota also provided floats for the parade.
Costas Sisois, the Parade Committee Chairman, expressed his satisfaction with the success of this year’s parade. He also emphasized that the expenses for the preparation and realization of each parade are high. Therefore, the Greek community should always support the organization and the parallel events that are planned.
Sisois emphasized that the spirit of the Parade is rooted in the values of freedom and the heroism of the Greek nation. He stated that it serves as a great lesson for the younger generations of the Greek community.
Bishop Sevastianos of Zelon, representing Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta, commented that the March 25 anniversary presents an opportunity for the Greek community of America to gather. He added that Hellenism has flourished and remains strong regarding national issues and religious ideals in Tarpon Springs. He stressed the inseparability of religion and homeland and expressed the wish for freedom in areas such as Cyprus, Northern Epirus, and others, especially in light of Turkish encroachment on Greece’s islands and other parts. He concluded by wishing for the unity of the Greek community, like the first fighters.
Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis stressed the importance of world peace and the need to shout for it everywhere, referencing current events in Greece. He praised the strong ties between Greece and the United States.
Loukas Tsokos, the Consul General of Greece in Tampa, highlighted the value and personal significance of Florida’s Greek-Americans through their participation in the parade. He expressed hope for an even better parade next year and emphasized the need to attract younger generations to showcase the importance of their Greek heritage. “There are a significant number of us in Florida, and we need to demonstrate that,” he said.
Dr. Irene Grapsia, the Deputy Education Coordinator at the Consulate General in New York, conveyed her best wishes to the entire Greek community on the anniversary. She expressed hope that the younger generations would gradually reduce discord and ultimately make it disappear. Dr. Grapsia emphasized that the Diaspora Hellenes’ struggle to preserve the Greek language and history is admirable and will keep them united with their roots and the motherland.
The mayor of Tarpon Springs, speaking to The National Herald, extolled the glory of Greece and America while emphasizing the principle of Freedom that both nations respect and pursue.
Former mayor Chris Alahouzos paid tribute to the heroes of the National Revolution, stating that Greece set an example of Freedom that many nations have imitated. AHEPA (Region 1, Districts 1+2) Lieutenant Governor Konstantinos Sofikitis stressed that history teaches us that we can overcome any problems if we are united. He cited AHEPA’s efforts to help the Homeland and reiterated the importance of unity and struggle.
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