Philadelphia, PA – The dry spell is over. After a 22-year lapse from the Greek Independence Day parade in Philadelphia, Greece’s Honor Guard, the Evzones, returned for their first public appearance in full attire.
Yesterday, outside of city hall, the first of a three-day celebration kicked off with a flag raising ceremony at City Hall. Primed and colorful, the 12 Evzones were led by Lieutenant Ioannis Sarakinos onto the campus of city hall, where the Greek community had gathered. Local press and onlookers snapped up photographs of the historic moments. Many Greeks appeared with children dressed in foustanellas in honor of the occasion. Local Greek clubhouse, the “Pontian Akritai of Philadelphia” appeared as well in folk attire adding to the flavor of the event.
Popi Karapalides sang both the Greek National Anthem as the flag was raised and concluded with the American National anthem. Athena and Nick Karabots, Eleftheria medal recipients were on hand, along with Grand Marshals of the parade, Pamela and Tom Papadopoulos of Colonial Marble and Granite. Each spoke about the sense of pride brought on by the occasion and reflected on the moment they watched the flag raised. “As that flag went up, I was singing “Se gnorizo apo tin opsi”, said Nick Karabots. When asked about the Eleftheria medal they are being recognized for, Karabots added, “It’s tremendous that the Greek community has recognized us for what we’ve done for intercity kids”.
Mayor Jim Kenney presented the leadership of the Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley with a proclamation of recognition for Greek Independence Day. The Federation reciprocated by presenting Mayor Kenney with a plaque, outlying the Oath of Alexander. Mayor Kenney read a portion of the proclamation, that introduced the document with his name converted to “Dimitri”. It brought on laughs. Kenney then spoke about the cities name Philadelphia and how Independence day plays a special role in the history of both Greece and Philadelphia. He closed by recognizing the contributions of the Greek community in Philadelphia.
The first of the three-day celebrations concluded with a visit by the Evzones to St. Thomas Greek Orthodox church, in Cherry Hill. There, they stood by the altar in four corners, as the Akathistos Hymnos liturgy service was conducted by his Eminence, Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey.