PHILADELPHIA, PA – It was the first time in 22 years that the Evzones returned to Philadelphia for the Greek Independence Parade, and what a triumphant return it was. The weather cooperated – as if they brought balmy Greek climes along with Hellenic pride to the event.
It was a pleasantly warm afternoon, a welcome respite from the chilly, windy parades of the last two years.
As usual, the co-Emcees were Magisterial District Court Judge Harry Karapalides, an Advisor to the Parade’s sponsor, the Federation of Hellenic-American Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley, who announced the Parade in English, and Federation President Efstathios (Stathis) Karadonis, who announced in Greek. With his usual good humor, Karapalides kept the crowd entertained during the delay of the Parade’s start – due to traffic patterns heading into Center City – the Parade was held along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway – even vowing to start telling a few jokes. “Three Greeks walk into a bar,” he began, as the crowd laughed – but that where he left. it. Soon enough, the Parade was underway.
Leading off, as is customary in the Philadelphia Parade were the Greek-American Veterans of Foreign Wars. And they received a loud cheer from the crowd, as Karapalides, an American history book author, educated the attendees by explaining how many of America’s Founders were involved in the Greek War of Independence.
The loudest cheer of all was for the Evzones, who stood in front of the Grandstand at attention as both the Greek and American national anthems were played. Whispers were heard in the crowd from those who attended the previous evening’s festivities, at the St. Thomas Greek Orthodox Church in Cherry Hill, NJ – where philanthropists Nicholas and Athena Karabots were awarded the Federation’s Eleftheria Medal: “the [Evones’] sergeant said that no one could eat until the Evzones had left the room – and we were hungry!”
The Karabotses mingled with the crowd on Parade Day, modestly happier to listen to the words of others than to speak themselves. Athena Karabots said “Zito I Ellas” to TNH, and Nicholas, proud of his Spartan heritage, added “Zito I Sparti.”
The Parade Grand Marshals were Tom and Pamela Papadopoulos of the Philadelphia area-based Colonial Granite and Marble, and the Honorary Marshals were AHEPA Supreme President John Galanis, and Daughters of Penelope Grand President Connie Pilallis. “I am most impressed with the turnout of young people to the Parade,” Galanis told TNH. “That’s what it’s all about.”
As the Parade concluded, also with the traditional final group the Hellenic Motorcycle Club, Tom Papadopoulos emphasized how happy he was that “ta paidia” – referring to the Evzones – were part of the parade. His wife summed up the entire Parade in two words: “Hellenic Pride.”