By Eleni Sakellis and Constantine S. Sirigos
NEW YORK – Parade day in New York began with a doxology that followed the Divine Liturgy at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and continued with a pre-parade reception at the Plaza Hotel that featured an appearance by New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Archbishop Demetrios presided over the liturgy clad in blue and white vestments evocative of the Greek flag and he was joined by Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey, Metropolitan Philotheos, bishops Andonios of Phasiane and Sevastianos of Zela, and Cathedral Dean Fr. John Vlahos.
The congregation included dignitaries and the diplomatic corps from Greece and Cyprus, and officers of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York.
Leading the chanting of the hymn “Eternal be Your Memory.” Archbishop Demetrios paid tribute to the memory of Archbishop Iakovos, who fell asleep in the Lord April 10, 2005 on the day of that year’s parade.
At the Plaza’s famous Oak Room, the brief speaking program was emceed by Mamie Stathatos and former NY State Assemblyman Matthew Mirones. Among the dignitaries were US Senator Charles Schumer, congresspersons Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler.
Mayor De Blasio spoke about Greece’s fight for independence as an example to us all of the nation’s fight for fairness and justice, reminding us that Greece is still a nation fighting for fairness and justice, and expressed his wish for increased help for Greece bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis
The Federation organizes the parade and its President, Petros Galatoulos, again thanked all the volunteers and benefactors before shouting “Zito Ellas, Zito 1821, zito I Omogenia” – the Greek-American community and prodding all towards Fifth Avenue.
The day before the parade the Evzones were the stars of the flag-raising ceremony at Athens Square Park.
Park Association President George Delis welcomed the honored guests and all those attending the event including the President of the Presidential Guard Major Lazaros Rizopoulos, the Evzones.
Th event began with a prayer led by Father Nektarios Zafiropoulos, Dean of Saint Demetrios Cathedral, followed by the national anthems. Michael Hartofilis, president of the Hellenic Lawyers Association served as emcee.
A small tent shielded most of the guests from the rain that began to fall but did not dampen the spirits or the enthusiastic shouts of Zito i Ellas (Long live Greece) from all the Greeks present. Greek flags were handed out to the crowd that gathered in spite of the chilly, damp weather to celebrate our Greek culture and heritage and support unity among Greeks everywhere.
Galatoulas encouraged all “to join this expression of our pride in our Greek heritage and homeland.”
Major Rizopoulos offered good wishes and his thanks to the community. Costumed dancers from Samos performed a few traditional dances to inspire and entertain the crowd.
Retired general Frangoulis Frangos, former Greek Minister of Defense, spoke about the importance of unity with Greece at this difficult time and mentioned the powerful connection with history and homeland for all Greeks.
After the flag raising the Evzones made an appearance at the annual Greek Traditional Dance Exhibition at the home of the Cretan Association Omonia.
Sixteen talented and enthusiastic dances 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 Poulikidis, and Demetra Karasavidis – the latter served as the all-day emcee.
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 Hellenic Classical Charter School and Holy Cross Church in Brooklyn.
“It was cold but terrific” Stathatos told TNH. “Watching the children dancing warmed everybody’s hearts – without dancing and in short sleeve shirts, but they were unbelievable.”
The event was an occasion to honor George Tsougarakis, a managing partner and litigator at the big firm of Hughes, Hubbard and Reed, and he lifted everyone into parade mode. “He had everybody chanting ‘Zito I Ellada’ and ‘Zito’ to a list of heroic Hellenes: the Greeks assisting refugees, working parents who take their friends to Greek school, the tireless parade volunteers at the Federation – there was tremendous enthusiasm.”
There were a number of after parties following the parade, including a cocktail party at the glorious Tavern on the Green in Central Park organized by attorney George Zapantis for the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals.