TORONTO, CANADA – The Greek Community of Toronto hosted its 24th annual summer festival at St. John’s Greek Orthodox Church and featured Greek superstar singer Thanos Petrelis during the first of two weekends. GCT Vice-President and Treasurer, Nikona Georgakopoulos noted that attendance and fundraising records exceeded those of every previous festival. “Thanks to Mr. Thanos Petrelis and Greek community supporters, we were able not only to break records – but to smash them,” he remarked. Georgakopoulos stated that attendance over July 4, 5, 6th exceeded 5000 people with Saturday evening (July 5th) alone reaching capacity at just over 3000. He went on to note that this year’s festival once again drew visitors who travelled from various destinations in South-Western Ontario, Quebec, and the United States.
GCT President Andonis Artemakis thanked Petrelis for helping to draw a range of fans spanning several decades to the 2014 festival. “We welcome each and every Greek Community supporter, we are thrilled to see you here celebrating our culture and we hope to see you in attendance at many more exciting upcoming events,” he told the crowd. “With your participation, your energy, and your passion for our Greek culture, you help to drive the important work ahead of us. We are working to grow our education and culture programs and your presence here today – your support of our fundraising efforts – helps to fund the subsidized programs we offer to our youth. Please know that we will always be here to support our youth” he concluded. Petrelis was greeted by thunderous applause on each of the three evenings he performed and the GCT also noticed a marked increase in social media activity, including Petrelis’ own posts on Facebook of selfies and videos with a sea of adoring fans in the background. To everyone’s delight, GCT President Artemakis awarded Petrelis with a lifetime honorary Greek Community of Toronto membership to convey Toronto’s appreciation for the significant boost in fundraising directly attributable to his performances. While exact figures have yet to be announced, VP Georgakopoulos shared that all operating costs were covered partway through day two of the 6-day festival and the community was quite pleased at the final fundraising total.
Without a doubt, the traditional dance performances by the GCT’s own Dionysos, Dionysakia, and Ellinakia dance groups, along with the performances of several guest groups including the Pontian, Cypriot, and Cretan were key highlights over the two weekends. The very successful Youth Night on July 11th, organized in cooperation with local university Greek Student Associations, was another. The GCT also continued its tradition of promoting local talent. The Board of Directors thanked several individuals included the band, H Parea, singers Anastasia Kakagiannis and Elena Tashos, and DJ Stoim and Dino who donated their services to help with fundraising efforts. The ongoing tradition of volunteerism, with 70 volunteers on site each day over and above the hours devoted by GCT board members and employees was yet another highlight. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who attended on Saturday July 05th and was greeted warmly by attendees, presented the GCT with a certificate recognizing the contribution this annual festival offers within the cultural fabric of Toronto.
The GCT is particularly grateful for this year’s outpouring of support from community members in light of the controversy that erupted when a competing for-profit festival was organized to coincide with the long-established GCT festival. An unwritten agreement has existed among various Hellenic Organizations and Churches in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to ensure that each has a dedicated weekend or two for individual fundraising events. The “Festival of Festivals” and its promoters, Athanasios Kourtesis, Nick Zarafonitis, and Jim Anastasiadis in effect sought to capitalize on the reputation which the GCT and the hard work of countless volunteers has established over 23 years by holding a substantially identical festival at the same time during the first two weeks of July and within about 3 kilometers of the GCT’s festival.
In the end, as President Artemakis himself pointed out, Greek Torontonians showed their support for the GCT through their attendance at the true Greek Community festival, through their generous volunteerism, and through their support for the talented performers who attend GCT subsidized cultural programs.
For more information about the Greek Community of Toronto, please visit www.greekcommunity.org.
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