ANAHEIM, CA – The 2016 Greek Orthodox Folk Dance and Choral Festival (FDF) at the Anaheim Marriott in California marked the 40th anniversary since the festival’s inception in San Diego.
The Festival’s growth has been remarkable since then, and this year 105 groups participated from seven Western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. A group from North Carolina also attended this year.
A total of 2,500 people attended the weekend activities in a joyful atmosphere of music, dance, and faith. Nia Vardalos and other castmembers from My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 were present at the opening night festivities.
The Festival operates under the auspices of the Metropolis of San Francisco. Metropolitan Gerasimos emphasized the anniversary’s significance of the anniversary: “for the last 40 years FDF has provided a forum for our Hellenic heritage and Christian faith for children and young adults. We have created a proud community.”
FDF Board of Trustees Chairman Gary Kyriacou told TNH that ”preparations for the festival are neverending. It requires enormous amount of work from the management team and the dedicated volunteers involved. We always look for ways to improve.”
FDF is a huge undertaking and with a budget nearly three quarters of a million dollars the support of sponsors is vital. “We are very grateful of all our sponsors and families who support this great ministry,” Kyriacou said, upon whom Archbishop Demetrios bestowed the ranking of Economos, an honor given to priests for excellent management of finances. One sponsor is the Elios Foundation which has supported FDF for the last 17 years, contributing $170,000. Elios President John Gumas said FDF “does a great job of promoting Hellenism to our youth. This may be one of the best youth programs in the country and we are proud to support its great work.”
FDF’s purpose is to engage Greek youth in dancing and choral competition but also to strengthen their Christian faith by attending spiritual workshops and seminars,” Gerasimos said. Singing and dancing are two of the greatest expressions of our humanity, helping the kids to develop lifelong relationships and enriching their spirituality, he said.
Preparations are intense, because the dancers attempt to master the choreography akin to specific regions of Greece, and musicians specializing in those are domestic and also brought in from Greece and Canada.
Olympian Dancers Director Vasilis Contos told TNH that ”selecting a region to research and ultimately preserve the knowledge acquired starts years before the presentation is showcased at FDF. It becomes an anthropological project that I take seriously as an investment in Greek folk culture.” The hallways filled with the young performers attending last-minute practices evidences their enthusiasm.
Archbishop Demetrios also attended the festival, as he frequently does. He is a great supporter of the festival and praises the ministry for ”its excellence and its important role in keeping the youth connected with its faith and ancestry.”
The entertainment included Diesi, a traditional Greek band from Montreal, Canada, and Dimitris Basis, a well-known singer from Greece whose repertoire includes modern and traditional Greek favorites. Basis was accompanied by Yiannis Sinanis on bouzouki.
Basis told the audience that FDF was ”an incredible experience” and he was grateful that Hellenes abroad retain their cultural and spiritual traditions, particularly as those in the homeland are going through difficult times nowadays.
Regarding Greece’s current state, Metropolitan Gerasimos told TNH that “Greece has been through tough times before. The Greek spirit and our Christian faith will help us overcome this. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America provides both moral and financial support. Most importantly, we maintain and promote our Hellenic values and Christian faith and that is immeasurable.”
“AND THE WINNERS ARE…”
FDF’s final evening concluded with the Awards Banquet, which was sold out with over 2500 attendees on hand. Archbishop Demetrios was honored with the Metropolitan Anthony Humanitarian Award, and Michael G. Kasolas received the Elios Award of Excellence.
The crowd was excited as Emcee George Papangellin prepared to announce the winners. The highest award, Sweepstakes in Division 1 went to the Olympian Dancers, their 13th time winning it. In the Advanced Senior Category, the winner was Palio Skolio of Oakland/San Francisco. In Division 2, Sweepstakes went to Atromitoi from Anaheim, and Advanced Intermediate went to Keravnos from Los Angeles. Seattle, WA’s Nikos Antonopoulos and Anaheim’s Cathy Georgopoulos won the Director’s Award for Divisions 1 and 2, respectively.
Preparations for the 2017 festival are underway. Updates, as well as a complete list of the 2016 winners are available on the Festival’s webpage, yourfdf.org.