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Events

Florida’s Greek Independence Parade, the ‘Greek Village’ Decked in Blue and White

TARPON SPRINGS, FL – The surprise that particularly enthused the officials on the dais and all the attendees took place at the end of the Greek Independence Parade in Tarpon Springs. After boys and girls from the local Cretan Association danced, George Belmadoros, only three years old, waited patiently for his turn. He was wearing a traditional Cretan uniform, with black pants, a black shirt, a black scarf on his head and black boots. He danced to the sounds of the Cretan lyra and in a moment he was leaping in the air, with the help of his elders, to show the levity of the Cretans, while everyone rushed to take pictures and applaud. “This was the best of the parade,” said at one point His Grace Bishop Sevastianos of Zelon, representing His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta.

This year’s Greek parade took place on March 17 in the famous ‘Greek Village’ with participations from many cities in Florida, but also from elsewhere, and closed with this little Cretan boy. The Grand Marshal was International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) and Pancyprian Association of America President Philip Christopher, who came from New York. Everyone wanted to get to know Mr. Christopher, who, by all accounts, made the best impression and won the love of all the community members who talked to him.

The Laconian Society float with Greek flags waving in the Greek Independence Parade in Tarpon Springs, FL, on March 17. Photo: TNH/Stavros Marmarinos

At every opportunity, Mr. Christopher referred to the continuing 50-year illegal occupation of Cyprus by the Turks and the need to continue the struggle for freedom and justice.

This year’s parade in Florida was dedicated to the grim 50th anniversary of the occupation.

The entire Dodecanese Avenue was filled with Greeks and foreigners, who attended this great national event of Greek Unity. The official dais was set up next to the well-known statue of the Greek sponge-diver.

When the Laconian Society’s float arrived in front of the dais, full of members of the organization who were waving Greek flags, the former president and founder of the Plato Academy, Terry Tsafatinos, known for his love for ancient and modern Greece, the culture and her struggles, recited a poem, dedicated to the great hero of the Greek Revolution, Georgios Karaiskakis. “We must always talk about the heroes of our nation,” he told The National Herald. “Next year, if we are well, I will recite for another hero, maybe Kolokotronis.”

Attendees gathered early to save their spots along the route of the Greek Independence Parade in Tarpon Springs, FL, on March 17. Photo: TNH/Stavros Marmarinos

The Athenian Society ‘Attiki’ of Florida, led by President Eleni Kariofilis, arrived in front of the officials and delivered messages in favor of the national issues of Greece, and cheered for the anniversary of Greek Independence and for Hellenism.

The first verses from the Greek National Anthem were sung by the students of the St. Nicholas Tarpon Springs community Greek School as Principal Chris Palaidis followed in a car, greeting the crowd, and holding a Greek flag.

The people applauded when Society of Epirotes of Florida- ‘Epirus’ President Nora Michopoulou spoke about Northern Epirus. The same was done by Vasiliki Mantelou, Vice President of the Society.

Several of the officials on the dais, greeted the anniversary and shared messages of unity and continuing the fight for national rights.

His Grace Bishop Sevastianos of Zelon, Consul General of Greece in Tampa Loukas Tsokos, and Grand Marshal Philip Christopher were among the dignitaries marching in the Greek Independence Parade in Tarpon Springs, FL, on March 17. Photo: TNH/Stavros Marmarinos

U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis of Florida, referred to the ideals of freedom that are common to Greece and the United States, while emphasizing that for Hellenism there are open problems, and the issue of Cyprus is still seeking its just solution, after 50 years. Rep. Bilirakis praised Grand Marshal Philip Christopher, who has dedicated his life to national issues for decades.

Speaking to TNH about the parade and its message, His Grace Bishop Sevastianos of Zelon noted, among other things, that Tarpon Springs, where this great event took place, “is a cradle of Hellenism” and expressed his joy that this year there was also youth participation from Cleveland, Ohio. He also said that Hellenism must remember the struggles of its ancestors. “But, the fight is not over, especially when we remember the occupation of Cyprus, which this year marks 50 years, when we think of Northern Epirus and the other parts of our Greece, which are still under occupation,” His Grace said.

The Cypriot float with Justice for Cyprus emblazoned on it reminded everyone that the theme of the Greek Independence Parade in Tarpon Springs, FL, on March 17, was the grim 50th anniversary of the illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus. (Photo: TNH/Stavros Marmarinos

In his statement, Consul General of Greece in Tampa Loukas Tsokos noted that it was a “very good parade.”

“Mainly, we need to attract the younger generations, so that the flame and pulse of Greece continue here every year,” he said, adding that it is very important for the youth of Omogenia to reconnect with their roots in this way as well. “I believe that participation in community events, such as the parade, is very important,” Tsokos said.

Tarpon Springs Mayor Costa Vatikiotis also spoke to TNH about the parade and the anniversary of the Greek War of Independence. He expressed his satisfaction with the entire celebration, while he referred to the struggles of the Greeks for Freedom in 1821, but also in recent years.

George Belmadoros, a young Cretan, shows off his dance moves, with a little help from an elder Cretan, at the Greek Independence Parade in Tarpon Springs, FL. Photo: TNH/Stavros Marmarinos
The students, teachers, and parents from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Greek School of Tarpon Springs, FL, were among the participants in the parade on March 17. Photo: TNH/Stavros Marmarinos

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