NEW YORK – Tens of thousands of Greek-Americans will gather on Fifth Avenue on Sunday, March 29, but Greek Parade Week in New York kicks off with the Pre-Parade Gala on March 21 at the Terrace on the Park in Queens that includes among its honorees all the volunteers. Parade weekend commences with the annual flag raising in Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan on March 27.
The Parade will start on 64th Street and 5th Avenue at 1:45 PM and will roll north to 79th Street and excitement is building, especially over the famed Evzones – the Presidential Guard of the Republic of Greece – who will arrive on March 26 and will stay longer than usual, through April 1.
Parade chairman Vasilios Gournelos presided on March 19 over the penultimate reports of the hardworking committees at the Stathakion headquarters of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, which organizes the parade.
Gournelos reported that all the preparations are on track – to date, 92 organizations will be marching.
Petros Galatoulas, the President of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, expressed his gratitude for the work of all the volunteers and to the sponsors, including Archbishop Demetrios, who provided a $10,000 check.
The Archbihsop presented a survey of Greek history and the contributions of Hellenes to civilization and said Greeks should shout not only “Zito 1821” but long live Hellas’ achievements expressed in multiple civilizations over 40 centuries. He also emphasized the importance of the community’s youth.
Galatoulas praised Archbishop Demetrios for always staying until the end of the parade. The latter said it was because every last child whom marches deserves to be honored.
Galatoulas acknowledged this year’ s Grand Marshals, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, noted investor John Calamos, and John and Eleni Psarras, Federation stalwarts who for years donated $5000 but this year added a $25,000 donation to the pot.
John Catsimatidis reported on the Channel 9 live parade broadcast from 2-4 PM, which he organizes every year. When he was asked about his duties as Executive Producer, he said “when we run short of money, I write the checks.”
This year Ernie Anastos and Nicole Petalides will be joined in the anchor booth by Broadway star Constantine Maroulis.
An excited Claudia Giannakopoulos, Miss Greek Independence, attended the meeting with the retinue that will ride their special float on 5th Avenue. “Thank you for participating in our parade,” Galatoulas said to them, “You will be our pride and joy. “
New York State Senator Michael Gianaris was greeted with applause and reminded that he promised he would open doors for Greek-Americans and is very happy that he was followed by so many others.
The meeting was broadcast live on Ellas FM and on the Internet.
Parade treasurer Spiros Vasilakis stated his concern that income is considerably behind – perhaps by $150,000 – what was collected by this time in past years.
Vasilakis noted that the harsh winter hindered fundraising efforts and others joined him in saying that maximum effort in the home stretch will drive them toward meeting their $350,000 budget. A large number of checks were collected that night, easing some of the pressure.
Gournelos , who is also Raffle Chairman, said $18,000 worth were sold so far.
Christina Kostakis, chair and George Pantelidis, co-Chair of the Journal Committee, reported advertising earnings of 26,900 and they hope to reach $100,000. Pantelides said “Fifth Avenue should ne blue this year.”
NGTV will be hosting a telethon to raise funds for the parade on March 22 from 4-11PM and Hellas FM will hold a radiothon on March 23.
Greek Consul Manos Koubarakis spoke of the importance of “honoring forebears who died so that we might be free and we are obligated to pass on what we have received from the community’ s pioneers to future generations.
Amb. George Iliopoulos and Amb. Vasilios Philippou, Consuls General of Greece and Cyprus, respectively, also praised the preservers and promoters of Hellenic values and thanked all involved for their sacrifices of time and effort .
Philippou called the parade a valuable exercise in cultural diplomacy and Iliopoulos emphasized the importance New Yorkers seeing a strong presence on Fifth Avenue.
Mamie Stathatos-Fulgieri, past Hellenic Lawyers Association (HLA) president, said she returns to help in appreciation of her precious parade memories dating to marching as a six year-old, and to transmit the tradition to her children.
Fulgieri, assisted by Michael Hartofilis, current HLA president, is organizing the Bowling Green ceremony, where Acting Nassau Country DA Madeline Singas will be the featured speaker. They are also coordinating the Athens Square Park flag raising and the pre-parade reception at the Harmonie Club on March 29.
Stefanos Amanatides invited everyone to the dance performances at the Cretan House in Astoria on March 28 from 1-7PM.
Speaking about the dinner at Terrace on the Park on March 21, George Kistsios said he was pleased “I can give you an optimistic report” and said ticket sales have been strong.
Galatoulas reported on the Parade Gala at the New York Hilton for its chairman, Philip Christopher. The grand marshals will be honored at the Hilton and Governor Cuomo will be present.
John Psarras is from Chios, and Eleni’s roots are in Lemnos. The latter declared how proud and honored they both are to serve as Grand Marshals. She told the story of how they met as young immigrants who missed their homes and John’s promise that they would return to Greece in five years. Like many, they never went back. They are deeply grateful for the opportunities and good life American gave them, “but Greece is our mother…Greece is in crisis…we have the power to help and give them hope.”