TARPON SPRINGS, FL – The City of Tarpon Springs on Florida’s Gulf Coast is a unique phenomenon in the United States, as no other community in our country so closely resembles a Greek island. Surely, there are larger pockets of inhabitants of Greek descent in large American cities such as New York Chicago, Boston, and several others, but those are traditional American cities with a whole lot of Greeks living there. Tarpon Springs is aesthetically distinct.
On January 14, at the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum, on the city’s historic Spring Bayou where eight days earlier hundreds gathered to watch the Epiphany Cross Dive, Tarpon Springs Sister Cities International (SCI) held its annual dinner and meeting, paying homage to its four sister cities around the world: three in Greece (Halki, Kalymnos, and Symi) and one in Cyprus (Larnaca).
St. Nicholas Cathedral priest Fr. James Rousakis began with a prayer, and SCI President Chris Alahouzos introduced the mayor of Tarpon Springs, David O. Archie. Mayor Archie, the city’s first African-American mayor – who is not running for reelection in the upcoming election in March, although Alahouzos is a candidate – delighted the crowd with his sense of humor, saying that if you look beneath the surface, he is really Greek. “My last name, Archie,” he said, “is really Archieopoulos.”
Archie emphasized that “if it wasn’t for the Greeks, we would be just another Florida city,” noting that it is the Greek culture – particularly the sponge diving industry and scenic fleet of sponge boats moored at Dodecanese Boulevard in the historic Sponge Docks – that have made Tarpon Springs a national tourist attraction.
Tarpon’s official historian and curator, Tina Bucuvalas, told TNH that the Greek community had a good deal to do with Mayor Archie being elected, insofar as they were historically supportive of African-Americans in Tarpon over the past century, particularly as they – the Greeks – understood firsthand what it was like to be discriminated against in the South.
Adamantia Klotsa, Greece’s Consul General in Tampa, also expressed her enthusiasm for SCI, noting the apparent cultural influence on Tarpon by its large population of Greek islanders, particularly from Kalymnos.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Marvin Bright, who is Provost of St. Petersburg College’s (SPC) Tarpon Campus, spoke about all the wonderful things going on at SPC, including a study abroad program where SPC students – the vast majority non-Greek – have the opportunity to visit Kalymnos and stay in the homes of native Kalymnians, thereby experiencing the culture by actually being immersed within it.
Dr. Bright expressed that the keys to success are three principles: 1. Faith: a belief in something bigger than oneself; 2. Family: unconditional love; and 3. Community: being a part of something bigger than oneself. He also praised Alahouzos for being a “good man” and who would make a “wonderful leader” for Tarpon.
Alahouzos, in turn, who thanked everyone for their support, told TNH that Bright has been very supportive of Tarpon’s Greek community from the onset of his appointment as Provost in July 2014.
Performing native songs of Tarpon’s four sister cities was Mihalis Kappas, a violinist brought to the event from Kalymnos by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Bucuvalas told TNH. He was accompanied on bouzouki by local musician Leonidas Zafiris.
Greek Consul General in Tampa Adamantia Klotsa speaks about Tarpon Springs’ sister cities.