CHICAGO, IL – Under sunny skies, the Annual Greek Independence Day and Hellenic Heritage Parade took place on April 29, on Halsted Street, between Randolph and Van Buren Streets in Chicago to celebrate March 25, 1821.
Thousands of Greeks gathered early on Sunday and filled the streets before the 2 PM start of the Parade. The colors that dominated the scene were blue and white. Young children, parents, grandparents, the officials, Evzones, all dressed in the blue and white or proudly waving the Greek flag.
More than 10,000 Greeks filled the streets to honor the day.
“A tremendous success with over 10,000 Greeks, when usually there are 5,000! I am very pleased. I haven’t slept for two days, but when I saw everyone going to the Parade, when I watched the little children dressed in traditional costume, when I saw grandparents with their grandchildren holding the Greek flags I could rest,” said the President of the Federation of Hellenic American Organizations of Illinois, “Enosis,” Kostas Chaniotakis.
“The presence of all these people has helped us to show the state how strong and how unified the Greek community is.”
Hellenic pride was overflowing in the words of Mr. Chaniotakis. Not only because of the day itself, but mainly because of the image that Greeks showed in the Parade:
“This parade is not mine. This parade is the Greek community’s parade, and I am very proud of the image we have shown. I am very satisfied and very pleased that all of the Chicago Greek community attended the parade. We showed our very big presence as a Greek community. To the Greeks who came to the parade I want to say a very big thank you that you helped us send a loud message to everyone. A message that the Greek community of Chicago is very strong and united.”
A message received by the Regional Governor of Central Greece, Kostas Bakoyannis, who was the Grand Marshal of the parade. Chaniotakis invited Mr. Bakoyannis as a young politician with ethos and a future in the homeland. Also present was Giorgos Patoulis, Mayor of Maroussi and president of Greece’s Union of Municipalities and Communities (KEDE).
Chaniotakis paid tribute to the Federation and all those who worked so hard on the parade. “There are no names, there is only the Federation. A Federation that has only volunteers and no one is paid. And I am very proud of those people who, despite their obligations, their jobs, their tiredness from everyday life, give so much to the Federation and even without being paid. This year we had a very great effort from all the people in the administration and that helped the most. Indeed, they also promise that they will help us next time to bring more Evzones and have an even better parade. We thank them.”
On the Saturday night before the Parade, the Gala was held with all the parade guests in attendance. “It was a very good event” Chaniotakis said, introduced the honorees Aristotle Loumis, Founder and CEO of Ellison Eyewear, and Dr. George Chiampas.
“Aristotle is a 28-year-old born in Chicago to Greek parents. At the age of 18, he went to Greece and was enchanted with his homeland. He has an eyewear business and even sells them in Greece. To strengthen his homeland he decided to open his own business in the homeland and helps Greece by opening stores.
“We honored him as a new entrepreneur. George is a new physician, the Chief Medical Officer of U.S. Soccer, and works with the Chicago Marathon, and a hockey team. And we honored him for his contribution. These young people are advertising for all Greeks.”
The President’s message, “Our goal was to bring the young people back. They had a great participation in the Parade and that satisfies us.”
The Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago also attended the festive events, along with Chaniotakis, prominent Greek-American politicians including Illinois’ Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes, Consul General of Greece in Chicago Polyxeni Petropoulou, John Sigioltzakis- General Secretary of the Federation of Hellenic American Organizations, members of the Board of Directors of the Federation, a representative of the Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, Andreas Papantoniou- President of the Pan Arcadian Federation of America, F. Papadopoulos, filmmaker Yannis Smaragdis, the First Lieutenant of the Air Force, and George Mavropoulos- President of the Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Research Center, among many others.