By Stavros Marmarinos
TARPON SPRINGS, FL – Opposite the reviewing stand that housed the officials attending the annual Greek Parade in Tarpon Springs, FL Angela Megdani and her husband, George, sat in the folding chairs they bring every year and waved Greek flags, like the thousands of people all around them. “We feel Greece all around us. It’s a thrill,” Megdani said.
Greek-Americans from the area and from other cities in Florida filled Tarpon’s Dodecanese Boulevard, enjoying the parade along with their fellows Greeks, philhellenes, and public officials.
In addition to the marchers there were ten floats. The local Cretan Association made ??a particularly striking appearance with its float, which was covered with fresh leaves and fruit, with grapes handing over its sides. The area resounded with Cretan music while on the float Dinos Zompanakis handed out small glasses of tsikoudia to the attendees, including officials, who stretched out their hands eagerly to accept the potent Cretan libation.
At the top of a towering float in the form of a ship, surrounded by students and staff, stood the Executive Director of the Academy of Plato Steve Christopoulos, waving to the crowd. Nearby were marchers carrying the banners of the Academy’s six schools, which won loud applause.
In his speech from the podium, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta thanked the parade committee, the young people who participated, and local authorities including Congressman Gus Bilirakis. The metropolitan spoke in praise of Liberty, and Bilirakis expressed his pride in his Greek ancestry. Tarpon’s Mayor David Archie and Greece’s Consul General Anthony Sgouropoulos also addressed the gathering.
Many of the groups that marched stopped in front of the reviewing stand and their leaders offered greetings to the officials .The students of the Academy of Plato, sang “I Ellada Pote den Petheni – Greece Will Never Die.”
George Poumakis, the founder of the Athenian Academy, reported on the success of the charter schools and the importance of free education .
Huge banners demanding justice for Cyprus accompanied the float of the Pancyprian Association of Florida. Standing on the Association’s float near Angela Georgiadis , its president, was Barnabas Zagkaris, the vice president. He spoke about the 40 year illegal Turkish occupation and shouted ” never forget !”
Metropolitan Alexios, obviously pleased with the parade, told TNH: “We see enthusiasm, courage, and heroism among our children who participated in this great celebration .” He added that he was particularly pleased that groups from other areas took part, “I am enjoyed the presence of our youth the most,” he said. His principal message was that there must be peace in Greece.
Parade Committee Chair Costas Sisois said that “everything went well” and that the level of participation this year was satisfactory and slightly higher than last year. He added: “Our children were enthusiastic and displayed pride in their Greek origin. This delighted us.”
Chrysostomos ( Chris ) Alahouzos, the former vice mayor who is now a candidate for mayor of Tarpon Springs , said: “we are grateful to the parade committee, which gave us another opportunity to celebrate the March 25, 1821, our great parade. I wish everyone well and the best for Greece.”