TARPON SPRINGS, FLA. – As Greek-Americans in the Northern Region of the country – such as in Philadelphia, PA and Campbell, OH cheered on the white and the blue in winter coats, their counterparts in the South, in Tarpon Springs, FL enjoyed “Greek-like” weather along the Dodecanese Boulevard, the main avenue along the city’s historic Sponge Docks.
As Father Anastasios Gounaris of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral – who as a priest in New York for many years has seen his fair share of parades in the North – told TNH, the parade in Tarpon is different as it passes directly through the heart of the Greek community. (In New York City, the community’s heart is in Astoria, but the Parade takes place across the East River, in Manhattan, along Fifth Avenue.)
Tarpon and the surrounding Greek communities of Clearwater, Tampa, and other Florida Gulf cities are comprised of Hellenes from all parts of Greece, many of which exhibit not only their ethnic but also their local pride at the Parade, not least of which the Cretans.
Dino Zombanakis, tall and upright sporting a traditional Cretan outfit, stood in front of the Association of Cretans marchers: holding a bottle of Cretan raki (they call it “tsigoudia” there), filled it with small plastic cups that he passed out to the crowd, according to custom. As chants of “long live Crete” and “long live Greece” filled with the air, fellow Cretan James Boutzoukas, former president of the Association, provided mezedes to complement the raki, such as shelled almonds, olives, and crackers.
Vasilis Theo, a Bostonian who lives with his wife in Florida part of the year, described Tarpon’s community as the one he thinks harbors the “deepest longing” for the homeland. “I’ve seen the Boston parades,” he told TNH, but there is “even more passion” by the Tarpon Greeks for the home they left behind.
The Plato Academy and Athenian Academy charter schools marched in full pride, and Tarpon Mayor David Archie shouted in Greek: “Zito I Ellada!” (“Long Live Greece!”)
Various other organizations represented, including the Athenian Association, whose members sang “I Ellada Pote Den Pethanei – Greece Never Dies.”
Adamantia Klotsa, the Greek Consul in Tampa, made her first appearance at the annual parade in that capacity, as she was appointed to that position just a few months ago.