NEW YORK – The Greek Independence Parade in New York City drew a great crowd on April 22. Organized by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, the parade celebrated the 197th anniversary of Greek Independence.
The bright sunshine and mild temperatures gave an added incentive to attend and participate this year, one of the best in terms of weather in recent memory. Many remarked that it was “a Greek day” with blue skies and only a wisp of cloud here and there, as the blue and white flags waved all along 5th Avenue.
The parade began with the New York City Police Department Mounted Color Guard, the NYPD Ceremonial Band, the Fire Department of New York Hellenic Society, New York City Parks and Recreation Department, the Color Guard with the banner of the Federation, the Greek and American flags, followed by the Federation Board of Directors led by President Petros Galatoulas, Vice President Basile Gournelos, 2nd Vice President Cleanthis Maimaroglou, and 3rd Vice President George Kalergios.
The Grand Marshals, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, and businessman and philanthropist Pantelis Boumbouras marched along with Honorary Parade Chairman His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, Parade Chairmen Emeritus John Catsimatides and Philip Christopher, and Parade Chairwoman Nancy Papaioannou.
Also marching, Parade Co-Chairmen Aris Kourkoumelis and Paul Kotronus, Parade Coordinator Athanasios Aronis, Parade Executive Director Georgea Kontzamanis, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras, Consul General of Cyprus in New York Amb. Vasilios Philippou, Consul of Greece Lana Zochiou, and other representatives of Greece and Cyprus and elected officials including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Mayor of Kerkyra Konstantinos Nikolouzos, and Mayor of Chios Manolis Vournous.
New York’s Greek-American elected officials State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymembers Aravella Simotas and Nicole Malliotakis, and City Council Member Costa Constantinides also marched proudly in the parade.
The honorary battalion included the much-anticipated Evzones- the Presidential Guard, who impressed everyone at the parade as they do every year. Their presence always inspires pride and appreciation among all those in attendance. This year, when the Evzones reached the grandstand, and turned to face the dignitaries, there was a moment of silence for Greek Air Force pilot Giorgos Baltadoros who was tragically killed when his plane crashed in the waters off the coast of Skyros.
After the solemn moment, the National Anthems of the United States and Greece were performed. The Evzones then continued their march up 5th Avenue to the applause and shouts of “Long live Greece” from the crowd.
Consul General of Greece Konstantinos Koutras spoke with The National Herald and noted that it was wonderful day and very moving to see all ages participating in the parade.
The parade’s family atmosphere was highlighted by the many parents and children dressed in traditional costume, among them Effie Andreou and her twin daughters, Constantia and Barbara, marching with the Pancyprian Association Dance Division.
Anthoula Katsimatides and Nomiki Kastanas- General Secretary of the Federation, served as the parade emcees, announcing the various groups, associations, churches, and schools, along with facts about each.
The parade was also broadcast on My 9 with Greek- Americans Ernie Anastos- veteran anchorman, and Nicole Petallides- Fox Business Network anchor, hosting and Fox 5 meteorologist Nick Gregory conducting interviews. Mike Woods, also a Fox 5 meteorologist, conducted interviews as well, noting his love of Greece, the culture and the people. He posted on Twitter, “We had an amazing day for the #GreekIndependenceDay #parade #centralPark #spring #workfamily #fun.”
Gregory, an avid Greek dancer, changed into traditional costume to perform with his dance group at the end of the broadcast. Anastos, Petallides, and Woods joined in the dancing which continued even after the broadcast ended.
Petallides told TNH that it is wonderful to be a part of the celebration of Hellenic heritage and to see so many people and dignitaries participating in the parade.
The parade continued until late in the afternoon with thousands participating. Thanks to the mild weather, many parade-goers lingered hours longer than they have in recent years when the parade was held closer to March 25th. Many headed to their favorite Greek restaurants in Manhattan or Astoria to continue the celebration. All looked forward to next year’s parade.
The armed forces parade in Athens is also held annually to commemorate Greek Independence. The history of the parade in the U.S. could easily fill the pages of a book since it follows the rich history of the Greek community. While parades have been held in many U.S. cities over the years, some of the most popular annual parades are held in New York, Chicago, Boston, Tarpon Springs, Baltimore, Detroit, and Philadelphia.
The celebration of pride in our Greek heritage, history, faith, and language, along with the memories shared by family and friends lasts a lifetime.
Follows the 2018 Greek Independence lineup