MANHATTAN – When the clouds hovering above Manhattan saw that the the Greeks marching up Fifth Avenue were undaunted by the early drizzle, they relented, making for a chilly but dry celebration of the 193rd anniversary of Greek Independence. The weather was not ideal but thousands of spectators marchers turned out, including New York’s new Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The uncooperative weather that has plagued the Northeast this winter, and whose biting winds made last weekend’s Greek Independence Parade in Philadelphia an uncomfortably chilly experience, relented only somewhat this afternoon for New York City’s Parade – the temperature much warmer but a light drizzle falling from a gloomy sky.
There was no gloom in the spirit of the Hellenes, however, and Archbishop Demetrios proclaimed that “if the rain attacks us, we will fight back, because that’s what Greeks do!”
The pre-Parade events included a morning Doxology at the Archdiocesan Cathedral and a reception at the Pierre Hotel, and Demetrios stirred the crowd by relaying how he lived in Greece during the years of German occupation – and asked those in the crowd who had, too, to signify by show of hands – and if everyone could envision how hard life must have been, imagine, he said, how hard it must have been to endure 400 years under Turkish occupation.
Parade Grand Marshals Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and George Tsunis, Ambassasdor-Designee to Norway, spoke about Greece’s many contributions to civilization throughout the centuries, not least of which to the United States of America. Schumer added that he is advocating for legislation that would make it easier for more Greeks and Cypriots to come to the United States, not because they helped him first become elected to Congress, but because America is better off with more Greeks.
TNH Senior Writer Dean Sirigos reported live from the Parade, that it began at 1:45 promptly. The loudest cheer of all – as is typically the case – was for the Evzones.
By 3PM Sirigos reported that though the rain had stopped the wind intensified, creating a biting wind chill factor – though the crowd’s enthusiasm had not waned.
Elias Tsekerides, Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York President, told WWOR – Channel 9 NY “I don’t have a coat,” as he stood in his suit braving the chill – “our forefathers fought in worst weather than this.”
Greek-American John Catsimatides – who ran for Mayor of New York City last year – and his wife, Margo, were on hand for the parade. Catsimatides once again coordinated a live broadcast of the Parade from New York’s WWOR Channel 9 TV station, cohosted again by the Greek-American duo of longtime veteran newsman Ernie Anastos and Fox Business News anchor Nicole Petallides.
The winds continued to intensify as the parade came to a close at 4PM, Sirigos reported, but the cheers endured until the very end.
Col. Andonios Neroulias, who is the director of the Greek school program of the Church of Our Savior in Rye, NY “I marched with my community, with my Greek school to support our heritage and our culture and to be proud of our ancestors who sacrificed their lives so that we can be free today.”
Georgia Galiatsatos-Kaparos of the Church of the Archangel Michael of Port Washington, NY said “It’s a very important and special day for our family to bring the children and my god daughters to remember those who fought for us to gain our freedom from the Ottoman Empire.”
Eleni Galitos of St. Markella of Wantaugh told TNH “It was a great experience. It’s great to feel Greek and have a sense of community and belonging and celebrating, regardless of the weather. We are committed to going every single year, so matter what. Zito I Ellada!”
Katherine Boulukos, “I follow the tradition of coming every year ever since I was a little girl.” She has been working to establish a much-needed Greek museum in New York. “We have to preserve these organizations that are 100 years old. We have to preserve their stories too,” she said.
Attorney Despina Katsigiannis, who went to Greek school at Holy Cross in Whitestone, Haroula Scouaras who attended St. Demetrios’ schools in Astoria with Despina and Anna Galatoulas, who are very proud of the work of their father Petros Galatoulas, the chairman of the parade. The young women said of the event that drew thousands of enthustic Greek despite the dire weather forecasts: “Its overwhelming. We’re all happy that regardless of the weather there was a great turnout.”