Philadelphia, PA – It came a week early and it brought with it some cold weather, but the Philadelphia Greek Community shook off old man winter and commemorated the 192nd celebration of freedom at the annual Greek Independence Day parade. They even added a few new members to the march this year along the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. St. Constantine and Helen of Reading along with St. Anna of Flemington, NJ joined in to name a few.
Friday evening, The Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley (organizers of the annual event) hosted a dinner and reception at La Veranda restaurant (Phila.)The annual meet and greet brought together community attendees, honored guests, and dignitaries who are usually from out of town and are participating in the big event. There, awards and speeches were given while honored guests were recognized in the Greek community.
John Kastanis President and CEO of Temple University hospital along with John Grossomanides, President of the AHEPA, both honorary marshals of the parade, were awarded plaques and recognized for their work and leadership in the Greek community. George Agatsiotis of St. Demetrios in Upper Darby and Chris Sevast treasurer of the Federation were also both recognized and awarded plaques for their years of dedicated service to the community. The evening was highlighted by a speech given by, Hellenic Navy Commander Konstantinos Kalkandis (Sc), who outlined the history of Greek Independence day and the history of the Greek flag.
St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in center city Philadelphia again hosted Sunday services before the parade. His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey performed the morning service that saw dignitaries, members of the Greek community and press in attendance to document and participate in the gathering. Local parish children came dressed in traditional Greek folk attire and presented the flags of Greece and America at the altar.
Following service and lunch, the Independence Day parade kicked off from Logans Circle on the parkway again. There, buses from across the Delaware Valley dropped off members of their respected Greek churches and organizations. At approximately 2:35 pm the parade started. St. Thomas Hellenic School of Cherry Hill, Nj, set the mood by singing both the Greek and American national anthems. After the invocation by his Eminence, Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey. The paraders crossed the grandstand path one by one, waving flags. Masters of ceremonies Honorable Harry J. Karapalides and Efstathios Karadonis both took turns announcing in English and Greek each group as they walked by. Grand Marshal Theodore Spyropoulos- President, Consul of Hellenes Abroad, USA region, briefly addressed the crowd following a heartfelt welcome by President Dimitrios Rozanitis of the Federation.
The Honorable Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia addressed the crowd and spoke about the history of the word Philadelphia. He said that it is Greek and there are two words that make up its historic name, Adelphia, and Phile. He went on to say, Philadelphia’s connection to the Greek community was a long and wonderful relationship in the history of the city. Metropolitan Evangelos, joked about Mayor Nutter’s association and friendship with the Greek community and described him as being a PhilHellene. “His adopted name on this day is Nutteropoulos” said Metropolitan Evangelos.
Midway into the parade, a presentation was made. On behalf of the Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley, a check was presented for 41,000 dollars to his Eminence, Metropolitan Evangelos for the “victims of Hurricane Sandy”. The money was raised a month earlier at a concert hosted at St. Demetrios in Upper Darby. The money would benefit the Greek-American community of northern New Jersey and would be distributed by the “Ladies Philoptochos Society“.
The parade lasted nearly an hour and a half and concluded in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum with a group of motorcycle riders bearing Greek flags and burning rubber.
From there, the event shifted to St. Demetrios church in Upper Darby, where a full evening of speeches from Greek dignitaries and members of the community were given to a gymnasium full church. Master of ceremonies, Simela Akranis introduced Mayor of Upper Darby, Thomas N. Micozzie who proclaimed in Independence Day in Upper Darby has once again presented itself as part of the community. The National Anthem of Greece was then sung by the “Saint Demetrios Greek Language School” which was immediately followed by the Honorable Georgios Iliopoulos (Consul General of Greece in New York). Iliopoulos addressed the crowd and said that the St. Demetrios Greek school singing talents left him feeling that he was truly in a Greek village back home. Koula Sophianou (Consul General of the Republic of Cyprus) thanked the Greek community Of Philadelphia for their donation to the “CYPRUS CHILDRENS FUND“. The announcement was made during the parade when each of the visiting dignitaries was invited to speak. She went on to say how important it was for communities like this to strive for excellence and expressed a need for Greeks to unite in this time of need.
Participating church dance groups performed a variety of dances from all over Greece, while Family members and friends looked on and snapped photos for nearly 2 hours.
For more information about The Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley, please look them up online.
Contact Information: The Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley
P.O.box 34656, Philadelphia, PA 19101
Federation President: Dimitrios Rozanitis: 856-625-6708
Parade chair: Stathis Karadonis: 856-308-2877
Parade Co-Chairs: Mela Akranis:610-766-2649 or Nick Yiantsos: 609-670-2749
George Horiates, Esq. 856-986-8972