NEW YORK – Parade weekend in New York City began with the flag-raising sponsored by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York in historic Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan on March 28. The celebration continued on the following the day with 6th Annual Greek Dance Exhibit at the Stathakion Center, but there were numerous official and unofficial parties all weekend throughout the New York Metropolitan Area, including the 4th annual Eleftheria Gala Cocktail Party of AHEPA Chapter 41.
Greek-Americans, philhellenes, and passers-by in Bowling Green were delighted by the annual ceremony highlighted by the appearance of the Greek Presidential Guard, the Evzones, and dance troupes of local Greek schools.
This year’s event Chair, attorney Mamie Stathatos-Fulgieri, welcomed everyone and spoke of the sacrifices made by those who raised the banner of freedom in 1821 “so we could raise the Greek flag today,” and added that “they reclaimed their Byzantine and Classical Greek heritage after 400 years of Ottoman oppression.”
Soprano Anastasia Zannis sang the national anthems and thrilled the crowd, which has also delighted by the dance troupes of the Greek School of Plato, A. Fantis and the Hellenic Classical Charter School.
George Iliopoulos, the Consul General of Greece, was present and the two keynote speakers were Frangoulis Frangos, retired Greek general, and attorney Nicholas Papain.
Stathatos-Fulgieri thanked all those who made the event possible, including Dennis Pilarinos.
EVZONES IN ASTORIA
Elias Tsekerides, the president of the Federation, which organizes the parade, told TNH he was very happy about the flag raising in the presence of the Evzones, and the dance event took place at the Stathakion, the headquarters of the Federation, for the first time.
“Fifth Avenue will be blue and white tomorrow. Bring your Greek and American flags. We are ready for the parade and with our messages about Greece, and of course about the 40 year occupation of Cyprus, which is unacceptable,” Tsekerides declared.
Petros Galatoulas, the parade chairman, emphasized the importance of the parade and related events for conveying Hellenic history and values to the community’s children and thanked everyone who worked for their success.
Local Greek-American school children sang the Greek and American national anthems as the flags were raised. They were joined by the students of Hellenic College, a high school in Thessaloniki, who are visiting New York for the parade.
Dimitra Karasavides of the Pontian Society “Komninoi” was the Emcee for the dance program, which began with the Greek American Folklore Society (GAFS) led by Vagia Allagianis, Artistic Director. GAFS’s members are dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Greek culture. She told TNH “we are proud of the adults and the children, and we appreciate the parents who take the time to bring their children,” to the GAFS and the other groups.
A. Fantis School of Brooklyn, led by Michelle Tsiagridas then danced, followed by groups representing: Cephalos, led by Kiki Liosa; the Kastorians led by Despina Hatzoglou; Erikousa, led by Toula Anastasiou; Holy Resurrection Church of Brookville, led by Maria Pariarou; KOMNINOI, led by Tsarsitalides; St. Demetrios School of Astoria, led by Demetri Balcan; Cretan Dance Group of Omonia & Minos, led by Eleni Sopasis; the Pancyprian, led by Constantinos Polidorou; Pan Lemnian Society, led by Allagianis; Chians, led by Petros Fourniotis; St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of West Babylon, led by Matina Panagas; Pontian Society “PONTOS” of Norwalk, led by Damian Togridis, and the Sons and Daughters of Alexander the Great Pan-Macedonia Dance Group, led by George Papadopoulos.
The leader of the Evzones, Major Ilias Kalmiris, told TNH this is the third time he has accompanied them to America. This year “I feel the same as the first time I came in 2005. It’s very touching to see the enthusiasm of the community. When a guest carrying his umbrella for rainy day told him that the Evzones are the sun and warmth of the parade, he smiled and said “the sun will come out.”
AHEPA ATTRACTS THE YOUTH
The Eleftheria Gala Cocktail Party of AHEPA Chapter 41 “The Brooklyn Chapter,” attracted many young professionals and filled the Renaissance Event Space in Astoria.
Ted Pavlounis, the chapter president, welcomed the guests to the event that was held outside of Manhattan for the first time. A portion of the proceeds is traditionally given to charity and this year it will be dedicated to Kefalonia earthquake relief.
George Iliopoulos, the Greek Consul, attended with his wife Anthousa. When he was asked to address the crowd, he spoke briefly, “I don’t want to spoil the party, “he said, and simply urged everyone to be on Fifth Avenue on Sunday.
James Kokotas, National Advisor to the Sons of Pericles, conveyed greetings from the Supreme Lodge, the Order’s national leadership, and commended the chapter for its continuing good work.
The guests were entertained with live music presented by Power Station Entertainment
Kokotas calls the chapter one of the Order’s great success stories. In its glory days, it produced not one but two AHEPA Supreme Presidents, but it underwent a period of decline. Volunteers like Matthew Mirones kept it alive and eventually helped bring about its renaissance. He also coordinates the chapter’s series of breakfast roundtables that have been attended by top government officials such as Tom DiNapoli, New York State comptroller, and Scott Stringer, New York City’s Comptroller.