"Greek-American" - April 4, 1998
Fifth Avenue Goes Greek
By George Sarrinikolaou
NEW YORK, March 29 - On this Sunday afternoon, when the weather
felt more like August than March, scores of Greek Americans, most of them
young children and teenagers, marched up Manhattan's Fifth Avenue in celebration
of the 177th anniversary of Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire.
But this annual parade marks more than just a historical event. It is
an opportunity for Greek Americans to celebrate their community in this
region of the United States. And so the day's events showcased hundreds
of Greek American organizations, ranging from parochial schools to banks.
Leading this year's parade were its annual organizers, the members of
the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York. They were followed
by the grand marshals, New York State Governor George E. Pataki, and Gianna
Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the woman who headed Greece's successful effort
to secure the 2004 Olympics for the city of Athens.
The parade also attracted a sizeable contingency of honored guests,
headed by Archbishop Spyridon of America. Among them was New York City's
mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who marched side by side with Greek Minister
of Foreign Affairs Theodoros Pangalos.
But Greece's elite presidential guard was by far the parade's greatest
attraction. In traditional dress, including the short pleated skirt, or
foustanela, two dozen members of the presidential guard, known in
Greek as evzones, came all the way from Athens to thrill the crowd.
The steady stream of marchers, bands, and floats was punctuated by speeches
delivered by the honored guests. Most spoke briefly in praise of the event
and the Greek American community. Archbishop Spyridon, however, took his
turn at the podium to denounce those who he characterized as working to
divide the Church and the community. Although the Archbishop did not name
names, the reference was apparently directed at the Greek Orthodox American
Leaders (GOAL) organization. GOAL recently demanded that Archbishop Spyridon
address the group's concerns or resign by May 1. His hand holding the microphone
shook and he was visibly upset as he vowed, speaking in Greek, to quell
what he described as divisive efforts.
It was difficult to gauge how many in the crowd were aware of this rift
between the Archdiocese and a group of the Church's laity; the Archbishop's
comments could only be heard in the area near the podium, and the parade
spanned over 20 blocks.
Absent this year were the political slogans that have colored parades
in the past. Those slogans were replaced with banners touting Greek history
and culture. In a few isolated cases, some did call out in support of Cyprus
or in defense of Macedonia. But with these issues no longer making headlines,
Greek Americans seemed focused more on enjoying the day than on making
New York's Greek-language daily, Proini, reported that an estimated
120,000 people lined the parade route.Giannis Mouratoglou, a Greek American
from the island of Ikaria, illustrated the spirit of the crowd: "We
came here to honor with our presence this celebration. Our granddaughter,
even though she is just three-and-a-half years old, knows about the parade
because we have told her."
George Kosmidis, who came to the parade with his family, summed the
day up with these words: "Today Greece and the United States are celebrating."
Three Greek Days in March
The parade along Fifth Avenue topped three days of celebration, which
began on Friday, March 27, at a small park in the center of Manhattan's
With Greece's presidential guard lending a sense of military splendor,
the Greek flag was raised in the Bowling Green. The occasion was celebrated
by children in traditional dress who performed Greek folk dances. The celebration
then moved to City Hall, where Mayor Giuliani presented Archbishop Spyridon
and other Greek Americans with a declaration commemorating Greek Independence
Day in the city.
On Friday night, more than 700 people turned out for a celebratory dinner
at Astoria's Crystal Palace. The event honored a delegation of Greek officials
that included Minister of Foreign Affairs Theodoros Pangalos, Mayor of
Athens Dimitris Avramopoulos, Ms. Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, and a
group of parliamentary deputies. Mr. Pangalos remarked that the event's
great turn-out was an indication of how vibrant the Greek American community
The celebration continued on Saturday night, when the Federation of
Hellenic Societies presented its Greek Independence Award to Mr. Pangalos
at a Manhattan restaurant. In his presentation of the award, federation
President George Georgopoulos told his audience that "Greece has yet
to fully appreciate the Greek American community." By that, said Mr.
Georgopoulos, he did not mean that Greece did not care for Greek Americans,
but that Greece had not learned how to include the Greek American community
"in its social and national debates, as well as in the search for
solutions to its foreign policy issues."
In Boston, Too
An estimated 80,000 people turned out for the Greek Independence Day
Parade in Boston, which drew Greek Americans from throughout New England.
Representatives from 62 parish communities in the region, 30 floats
of Greek American organizations, and eight marching bands paraded along
2.5 miles on Boylston and Tremont Streets.
Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci, and the mayor of Thessaloniki,
Konstantinos Kosmopoulos, led the parade along with the Bishop Methodios
The parade also enjoyed aerial support. A small plane flew over Boston
dragging a huge Greek flag, while a US Air Force jet zipped over the parade.
[ EKKLISIA | www.ekklisia.org/etyp-4-4.htm - April 4, 1998 ]