Thousands took part in the parade honoring the Greek Independence day and the return of the Olympics to Athens.
NEW YORK.- Apostolos Zoupaniotis
The beautiful Spring weather contributed to a great Greek Independence Parade in Manhattan New York. Tens of thousands of Greek Americans from the New York, NJ and CT tri-state area and from far away cities like Pittsburgh Pa. marched on Fifth Avenue, showing how proud they are of their heritage. New York Police Department Sources said that participants were in the range of 50.000 people. That was the highest point of a week long celebration of Greek Independence.
NYC Mayor, Michael Bloomberg (who issued a proclamation for the Greek Independence Day), along with US Senator Charles Schumer, Members of Congress Maloney and Rangel and many city and local officials, took part in the parade, one of the largest ever.
The Parade’s theme was the return of the Olympic Games to Athens Greece, in August 2004. Grand Marshals of the parade were Georgia and Dimitris Kaloidis, with Margo and John Catsimatides. Speaking about the Grand Marshals, at a black tie gala-dinner, at the Hilton Hotel in Manhattan, Archbishop Demetrios described them as great philanthropists, contributing to the Church, Greek Education and every worthy cause.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and NYU President Emeritus and former congressman, John Brademas, were also honored, along with past Federation of Hellenic Societies President, George Georgopoulos.
Speaking at the event, the Mayor of Thessaloniki, Vassilis Papageorgopoulos said “In this crucial period for global balance and cohesion, it is worth fighting together for progress, development and peace … inspired by the universal values of the Ancient Greek spirit…”.
AHEPA Supreme President, Jack Georgalas, also offered his greetings.
On Friday, a dinner – dance took place in Astoria, honoring Evzones, the men of the Greek Presidential Guard. Greek Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Panayiotis Skandalakis, and Members of Greek Parliament, Nikos Nikolopoulos, Stelios Matzapetakis and Stelios Papathemelis. Members of Greek and Cypriot Diplomatic corps were present and spoke, as well as the Mayor of town of Ancient Olympia, were the Olympic Games started almost 3.000 years ago.
Parade Day celebrations included a doxology at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, followed by a reception at the Plaza Hotel.
New York State Governor George Pataki proclaimed March 25th the Greek Independence Day in the state of New York during a brief meeting in the NYC executive offices. He was joined by Archbishop Demetrios, the Grand Marshals, Hellenic Federation Officials and Greek MP Stelios Matzapetakis.
The text of the proclamation follows.
“Whereas, the Empire State has a tradition of acknowledging milestones important to world history and to the cause of freedom, and historical events concerning the Greek people’s struggle to reclaim their right to self rule are of notable interest, as ancient Greece was the birthplace of democracy and modern thought, and the United States of America is the champion of modern democracy in today’s world; and
Whereas, on March 25, 1821, the people of Greece declared their independence from an Ottoman Empire under whose rule they lived for four centuries, and historical accounts indicate that, on this day, Bishop Germanos of Patras hoisted the Greek flag at the monastery of Agias Lavras in the Peloponnese, beginning an eight-year war during which thousands of Greeks fought bravely and paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom; and
Whereas, the spirited resistance of the Greek forces drew attention from the British, French and Russian governments and the people of these nations, and others, fought alongside the Greeks; their formal involvement in the Greek War of Independence, chiefly the battle at the Bay of Navarino in 1827 and the Russian army’s invasion and forced surrender of Ottoman-controlled Constantinople in 1829, helped end the war; and
Whereas, each year, the Greek Independence Day Parade takes place in the heart of New York City along Fifth Avenue and is the local community’s 66th celebration of emancipation and pride; the Olympic Games’ return to Greece – the event’s ancestral homeland and the site of the first international Olympic Games in 1896 — is understandably the theme of this year’s Greek Independence Day Parade; and
Whereas, messages and symbolism reflective of the Games’ return to Athens will undoubtedly play a major role in parade production and execution; parade organizers, participants and viewers alike will anticipate the Olympic Games with a dual hope; they will hope for as great a performance by Greece this summer as when Spiridon Louis won the marathon in 1896 and with hope for as much success by America as when James Connolly, also in 1896, won the triple jump, making him the first Olympic champion in 1,500 years; and
Whereas, all citizens, in full affirmation of their allegiance to the democratic principles from which our two great nations were born, can appreciate the pride felt by the thousands of parade participants and onlookers; in reflecting upon all we have to be thankful for, it is fitting that New Yorkers join Greek Americans, Greeks in the homeland and those throughout the world in acknowledging the historical significance of a day that symbolizes for Greeks, renewed pride, autonomy and optimism;
Now, Therefore, I, George E. Pataki, Governor of the State of New York, do hereby proclaim March 25, 2004 as Greek Independence Day in the Empire State”.