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After two years of restrictions from the pandemic, the annual Greek Independence Day parade in Philadelphia returned and was better than ever. At 2PM on Sunday, March 20th parade marchers and spectators filled the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the heart of Philadelphia. The busy thoroughfare was blocked off to traffic so that the Greek community could celebrate our holiday in proper fashion.
Leading the procession were the esteemed group war veterans. Beside them marchers carried the icons of Annunciation for the Annunciation Church of Elkins Park and Evangelismos of Theotokos of Philadelphia. Special banners waved in honor of the Monastery Agia Lavra where the Greek Revolution began and the words “freedom or death” were first proclaimed. This was followed by a banner recognizing the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley, the parade and weekend event organizers.
The procession continued with honored dignitaries including His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America and Bishop Apostolos of Medeia of the Metropolis of New Jersey. Alongside was Alexandra Papadopoulou, Ambassador of Greece to the United States, Georgia Athanasopulos, Consul to Panama in Philadelphia, accompanied by George Horiates, Esq., Eleftheria Award Recipient and Past Supreme President of the Order of AHEPA President, among others. The current AHEPA Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas was also there along with the President of the Daughters of Penelope Kathy Bizoukas. Past parade grand marshals, Eleftheria medal recipients, Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia board members, and other dignitaries from groups throughout the Greater Philadelphia and New Jersey region were present as well.
Then it was time for the guests of honor all the way from Greece, the elite Presidential Guard – the Evzones. They stood at attention at the beginning of the parade procession in front of the historic City Hall building. As the Evzones began to march down the parkway to the parade endpoint at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the sound of their traditional ‘tsarouxia’ shoes methodically hitting the pavement echoed throughout. A beautiful feature of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is that it is lined with all the flags of nations around the world. The Evzones paused under the Greek flag, waving passionately in the windy weather with City Hall and the Comcast skyscrapers in the background. They then made their way towards the end of the parkway where the commanding officer leading the group shouted commands for their formation. As the Evzones reached the end of the parade procession they formed in two lines, one on either side of the road, facing inward towards each other. Parade Emcee Harry Karapalides announced a pause in marching to introduce the American and Greek National Anthems and then introduced each parade group as they passed by the reviewing stand where he stood on along with other honored guests.
Dozens of Greek schools, parishes, and regional organizations lined up to march down the Parkway. Little kids dressed in full traditional ‘stoles’ waving their Greek flags raised great cheers from the crowd of spectators. There were floats, sports cars, and a giant tank truck. There was even a famous Philadelphia and New Jersey entertainment group in attendance – the Mummers! As they danced and played music along the parade route in their famous bright colored costumes and live instruments, they mixed the Greek Independence celebration with some Philly pride. The last group to pass by the finish line was the Pontian Society “Akritai” Dance Group. They put on the grand finale of the parade by performing traditional Pontian dances to the beat of a live drum player. The energy was incredible as people shouted in support of the dancers’ powerful stomping, customary in dances from Pontos. The Pontian dancers closing the parade has become a tradition and ends the event on a great note. Afterward, the Evzones reassembled in organized lines to march back up the Parkway.
The events continued at St. Demetrios Church in Upper Darby where youth dance groups performed. There were homemade pies like spanakopita and tiropites, as well as desserts like loukoumades for sale. The dance groups ranged in age from Greek school kids to the loved Macedonian and Pontian groups of adults. The Evzones came – although not in uniform – to greet the community. Each of the young men received a plaque honoring them for participating in our parade and being a part of our Greek Independence celebrations in Philadelphia. Congratulations to the organizers for another year of successful events, and continuing to honor our heritage and pass these traditions on to the next generation.
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PHILADELPHIA – The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley announced that the Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece will be participating in the Philadelphia Greek Independence Day Parade on March 20.
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