The festive Christmas Tree Lighting at Athens Square Park in Astoria was held on November 30. Photo by Eleni Sakellis
ΑSTORIA – The festive Christmas Tree Lighting in Astoria’s Athens Square Park took place on November 30 and drew the largest crowds since the annual event began four years ago. A parade down 30th Avenue from 50th to 30th Street with the NYPD Police Band and a horse-drawn carriage kicked off the event which brought cheer to all those present amid slightly milder temperatures this year.
Once the parade reached the park, film producer and author Athena Efter gave the welcoming remarks, noting that “all of us have gathered here as a shining example of peace, love, hope, and unity among neighbors.”
She then introduced Konstantinos (Gus) Lambropoulos, one of the initiators of the annual Christmas tree lighting, and his wife lawyer Maria Markou who presented the program.
In his remarks, Lambropoulos noted his love for the borough of Queens which brings so many people of different cultures together. “My wife and I and other members of the community got together to put this tree [lighting] together, it took a community to put this together,” he said, adding that the tree is a Norway spruce, like the one in Rockefeller Center, and that it took six people working 2400 hours, 10 days, “so we can have a beautiful tree in this beautiful community in Queens.”
“Thank you all for coming, because this means a whole lot to me,” Lambropoulos said. “This tree started in COVID, when spirits were low, sadness was high, when people didn’t know whether they were coming or going, and my wife and I decided let’s put a tree together in this community when spirits were down and we started then and now its four years later… this happened because of you, not just us, because of you and I together as a community, thank you.”
Maria Markou noted that “during COVID, my husband had this fantastic idea to unite everyone and have a merry spirit… we need to remember today why we are grateful for the things we have and the people we have, and also we need to remember the people we lost. We also need to remember the values we have as Americans, the values of appreciation, compassion, the value of honor and dignity, and that is why we’re here.”
“Astoria is the best place because we have all the ethnicities, all the nationalities, we are open to everyone, and we are here for everyone. I want to thank all the volunteers, the sponsors, and the children, because the children are our future.”
Markou also thanked the police, fire department, first responders, and “all those who protect our nation.”
The many sponsors included many local businesses such as Grand Cafe which provided hot chocolate at the event for attendees to enjoy, Nissi Restaurant, Trade Fair Supermarkets, First Central Savings Bank, the Athens Square Park Committee, Alma Bank, Markou Global Group, Lambropoulos Group, and Grand Wine & Liquor as well as many community members and organizations.
Following the gratitude expressed to all the sponsors, the Astoria Storm youth baseball team was introduced and received warm applause for their championship season.
A countdown followed and the Christmas tree was finally lit amidst cheers from the crowd as they snapped numerous photos of the impressive display.
The performances then began with the freshmen chorus of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts singing Christmas favorites and then the School’s orchestra playing festive instrumental arrangements, followed by a mariachi band which performed in Spanish. The students of the St. Demetrios School in Astoria sang in Greek and in English under the direction of Phyto Stratis who also performed with his Cyprus New York Productions artists Ariadne Anna, Aggeliki Psoni, and Mark Ryan for the charming finale of the evening.
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