By Chrysoula Tzortzaki
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – The heart of Crete always beats in Salt Lake City, but it beat more strongly than ever June 27 to July 2 when approximately 1,000 Cretans from across the country gathered for the 44th Congress of the Pancretan Association of America.
Right from the start participants understood the purpose of the convention was to strengthen ties with Crete and to present the noble history and the traditions of the Cretans in Utah.
The Cretans of Utah shared stories about their ancestors, how they arrived, settled, and thrived as they put down roots thousands of miles away from their island, but in an environment that brings to mind the proud mountains of Crete.
The highly successful congress was the fruit of the efforts and professionalism of the organizers at all levels
Praise abounded for the food, the well-planned events, and the spirit of the volunteers.
The history of immigration of Greeks in Utah is closely connected with the history of the mines in Carbon County and Bingham Canyon. The hard-working miners and their descendants eventually moved all over the state.
The convention’s theme was: “Discover your past, claim your future”, which dominated all the events that took place, including thematic tours in the cities of Price and Helper, UT.
There were displays of items from historical archives, photographs, and audio recordings provided by local Cretan clubs and the Pancretan Association of America.
The guests could not get enough of the presentations, dances, and songs from the second, third and fourth generations of Cretans.
Among the plentiful activities were a Sunday picnic on the grounds of the Winter Olympics of 2002. People were deeply moved by the views of 10,000 foot-high mountains, which evoked memories and filled them with pride.
Many youth activities, including bowling, water sports, and hiking, laid the foundations for friendships that will last a lifetime.
Cretan Night featured a menu full of the scents and tastes of Crete – snails, lamb heads and other delicacies were offered.
The guests also enjoyed the music of the band of Harry and George Pantermakis and were completely delighted with the dancing of the youth in traditional dress.
During the organizational meetings, the members took stock of the past two years and elected members of the new Board and Panagiotis Psarakis as President
The conference welcomed Gary Herbert, the Governor of Utah, who proclaimed as Pancretan Week in Utah the period from June 27 to July 2, and Ralph Becker, the Mayor of Salt Lake City.
Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, was a featured speaker. Touching upon the tumultuous current events related to Greece and the harsh media coverage the country and its people have received, she declared “Greeks are not lazy. Actually, the OECD Organization reports that Greeks work more hours per year than any other ethnic group in Europe.”
She summed up the situation and her hopes for solutions by saying “Greece needs Europe to maintain its unity, stability and strength, but Europe needs to Greece for the same reasons.”
GROUP PHOTO CAPTION:
Standing: Anthony Kounalis, Anastasia Marakis, Helen Vlastos Ranney, Haralambos Markakis, Rema Manousakis, John Marakis, Iakovos Boutzoukas, Vasilis Fourakis, Maria Stratoudakis, Georgia Tsismenakis, Kostas Pitaridis, George Tsoutsounakis. Sitting: Christos Markakis, Theodore Manousakis, Eleftherios Dramitinos, Erasmia Vlastos Novotny, Roxanne Koston, Panagiotis Psarakis, Costas Tsiskakis, Xanthippi Gelasakis, Dr. James Saklas, Debbie Nikokavouras. Absent from photo: Stavros Antonakakis, John Vomvolakis, John Russon, George Marnelakis, Maria Vamvakis, and Dr. George Papadantonakis.