NEW YORK – Greek Independence Parades are taking place throughout the United States this spring, and today, April 10, marks the biggest one of all – in New York City, along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.
The National Herald, as always, is covering the entire day’s activities live, and our correspondents will provide full updates as they occur, right here on our website.
Stay tuned throughout the whole day for parade news as it happens:
2:05PM: The Parade is underway! Some highlights:
1:15PM: A Preparade Reception at the Plaza Hotel.
11:35AM: A Liturgy is underway at the Archdiocesan Cathedral in Manhattan, prior to the start of the parade.
Preparade events included celebrations from over the area over the weekend, as depicted in the accompanying photos.
Preparade Gala Event at the New York Hilton, Saturday Apr. 9
More than 450 people filled the ballroom of the New York Hilton on April 9, eve of the Greek Parade for a Gala dinner that celebrated the 195th anniversary of the start of the Greek War of Independence and to honor four exceptional Hellenes who served as Grand Marshals: the leader of Greece’s official opposition party New Democracy Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Congressman John Sarbanes, industrialist and Philanthropist Dr. Spiros Spireas, and Alek Skarlatos, who helped foil a terrorist attack in France last year.
Philip Christopher, the founder and President of PSEKA was the evening’s Emcee. He invited Archbishop Demetrios to offer the invocation, assisted by Deacon Eleftherios Constantine. Soprano Anastasia Zanni, accompanied by Spiros Cardamis on piano, presented thrilling renditions of the national anthems and later delighted with guests with popular Greek songs.
Christopher acknowledged Greece’s Ambassador to the UN Christos Panagopoulos, UN Ambassador Catherine Boura, Cyprus’ UN Ambassador Nicholas Emiliou, Greek Consul General George Iliopoulos, and Cyprus’ High Commissioner in New York Vasilios Philippou. He also noted the presence of Dep. Minister of Defense Dimitrios Vitsas and Commissioner Photis Photiou representing Greece and Cyprus respectively, and retired Greek General Frangos Frangoulis.
Petros Galatoulas, the President of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, which organizes the Parade, echoed Christopher in praising the Grand Marshals and the hundreds of people who supported the parade as volunteers and benefactors, especially Spireas, who was a grand benefactor of the gala dinner.
The memory of Archbishop Iakovos, who passed away on April 10 11 years ago, was invoked.
Spireas described his wife, Amalia, as “the love of my life, and our children are my pride and joy,” and began his speech by noting that “patrida, thriskia, kai ikogenia – country, faith, and family – are the values I grew up with and followed all my life.”
He said the people of Greece have not lost those values, they have just forgotten them, and that combined with individual initiative and entrepreneurship, which he said the success of the 450 guests prove are in the Greek DNA, Greece will overcome. He noted that he started his pharmaceutical firm Sigmapharm Laboratories “with love, faith, and passion – not a lot of money. I was a busboy, but behind me stood my wife, her family, and my children. If I could do it, the people of Greece can do it.”
For the introduction of Congressman Sarbanes, Christopher called to the stage Andy Manatos, president of the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, who traveled from Washington to attend, as did AHEPA Executive Director Basil Mossaides and AHI President Nicholas Larigakis. AHEPA’s Supreme President John Galanis came to the gala from Milwaukee.
Sarbanes congratulated his fellow Grand Marshals but singled out Skarlatos. Everyone in military service honors America, but they go into battle when ordered to do so he noted. “This young man did it spontaneously” Sarbanes said of Skarlatos.
Noting the struggles of Greece, which now include the refugee situation which constitutes “a humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions” and that Cyprus remains divided after 42 years of illegal Turkish occupation, Sarbanes pledged to continue to make issues of concern to Greek-Americans and the wider community “my number one priority.”
Sarbanes said “I and others in Congress will press upon this administration to in turn apply pressure to Turkey to do the right thing to allow the reunification of Cyprus. “
After noting that the Federation invited Greece’s president, prime minister, and other top official and party leaders to serve as grand marshal, and was pleased that Mitsotakis, accepted.
Mitsotakis began by congratulating his fellow Grand Marshals in perfect English. Expressing his thanks for the honor, he emphasized his ties with the community. “I have lived among you for seven years and I feel like one of you” and he illustrated his feelings for Greek-Americans when he said how touched he was to see the famous photo from a recent New York parade of a towering Evzone smiling at a little boy also dressed as a “tsolia” and waving a Greek flag.
He elicited a burst of applause when he announced that his party just submitted a law to parliament that would enable Hellenes abroad to vote. “We want you to be able to participate” more deeply in Greek life. “We want to recognize the significance of the Diaspora, the strength and the courage it gives to the people of Greece.”
Mitsotakis declared “I have deep faith in the power of our people” and he is certain that by the time the bicentennial of the Greek state is celebrated in 2021, they will have overcome the current crisis – as they have those of the past, by expressing the values that are found in the Greek-American community,” including meritocracy and mutual support.”
“We will be a much better country, truly independent and free from the memorandum, proud…and conveying to future generations – as our forebears did – a better Greece,
The touches that gave the guests a taste of Greece included the Evzones who flanked the entrance to the hall and who manned both sides of the stage, and the spectacular images of Greece projected on large screens. Filled with Hellenic pride and hoping for warm weather – the sunshine was not in doubt – parade co-chairs urged everyone to join them on Fifth Avenue. Vasilios Gournelos said they will turn New York into a Greek City and George Kalergios declared Greece would overcome the crisis – a common theme of all the speakers – because there is nothing the people who filled the room could not handle…..
The Greek-American elected officials present included Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, NY State senators Michael Gianaris and James Skoufis, and Assemblywomen Aravella Simotas and Nicole Malliotakis, NY City Councilman Costas Constantinides, and Rhode Island State each offered brief but inspiring greetings to the huge crowd.
Singas, who won a surprise landslide victory last November, stood as a shining example of what the community could accomplish on all fronts with imagination and unity of purpose. “I was here last year and asked for your help and I want to thank you all because without you I wouldn’t be standing here.”
The Gala concluded with the benediction by Archbishop Demetrios, who also offered a mediation on what the ancient Greeks and Christianity contributed to the modern idea of freedom.
Earlier in the day the Evzones were the stars of the flag-raising ceremony at Athens Square Park. They also made an appearance at the annual Greek Traditional Dance Exhibition at the home of the Cretan Association Omonia. Sixteen dance talented and enthusiastic groups from throughout the NY area participated. The Pontian Society PONTOS came from as far as Norwalk, CT joining Astoria-based groups like the Chian Federation led by Petros Fourniotis. Event Chairman Stefanos Amanartis told TNH that the events success was due to the committee and its chairpersons Sophia Kalemkeridis, Eleni Tsartsilatidis, Adriane Poulikikis, and Demetra Karasavidis
Parade weekend began with the flag raising at Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan chaired and emceed by attorney Mamie Stathatos and featuring student dance troupes from the American Classical Charter School and Holy Cross Church in Brooklyn.
Preparade Events throughout the New York Metropolitan Area