Celebrating Greek Independence Day with Maryland Parade
by Joanne Trikoulis
On a beautiful sunny Sunday proud Greek-Americans and spectators from all over Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia and even as south as North Carolina gathered along the streets of Baltimore’s Greektown to celebrate their ancestor’s sacrifices in preserving the ideals of Freedom and Democracy, and witness the pride of so many of the Greek youth marching to showcase their Greek Heritage in the Maryland Greek Independence Day Parade.
Celebrations began with a reverent Doxology at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of Baltimore in the presence of the Evzones, the honorary guests and dignitaries of both the Greek and Cypriot Embassies, as well as local and state officials, followed by a beautiful lunch reception hosted by Ikaros Restaurant.
The ceremonies began with prayer by Archimandrite Nektarios Cottros, followed by the Greek National Anthem and the National Anthem of the United States of America sung by Stefanos Niktas and Maria Pearce, respectively. With the beautiful melodious sounds of the Hellenic Philharmonic Society Band of New York under the direction of Spiros Svolakos in the background the parade began making its way through the streets of Greektown led by this year’s Grand Marshal, Former Baltimore City Councilman and Maryland State Senator Perry Sfikas.
The groups, which included the Greek Schools, Dance Troupes and parish members from over a dozen Greek Orthodox Churches of Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia were dressed in their ethnic costumes and the coveted colors, blue and white, waving Greek flags. Representatives of chapters of the AHEPA and Daughters of Penelope along with many societies representing various regions and islands of Greece also participated in displaying their pride in their heritage.
Especially beautiful were the floats which included the “ΚΡΥΦΟ ΣΧΟΛΙΟ” reenacting the underground secret schools that the Greek children, enslaved under Ottoman rule, attended, as well as the float of “Aμαρτολοι & Κλέφτες” paying homage to the hidden and heroic soldiers who provided “insider” information to the Greek armies, which led to the victory in 1821 and Greek Independence. Following close behind, George Lagadinos, dressed as the iconic heroic figure of 1821, General Thodoros Kolokotronis, turned to salute the clergy, military attaches and dignitaries, as did the coveted white horse he gallantly rode on, compliments of the great patrons of the parade.
There were also the living history groups such as the “Myrmidons” from Pennsylvania illustrated the revered skills of the mighty warriors of Achilles as well as the “Epilektoi Hoplitai” who portrayed and reconstructed with historical accuracy the clothing, equipment and fighting skills of the ancient Greeks Hoplitai.
The epilogue of the Parade was the somber march of a group of young men from Maryland, who trained for many months under the supervision of Stavros Katsas, who was a Sergeant of the Hellenic Presidential Guard to offer the spectators a depiction of the ceremonies performed by the historical elite light infantry, also known as the Evzones. The ceremony concluded with the Laying of the Wreaths by Christina Vasilatou, First Secretary of the Embassy of Greece and Konstantinos Polykarpou, Consul of the Embassy of Cyprus, and by the Military, Naval and Air Attachés of the Embassy of Greece, Baltimore City Mayor Catherine E. Pugh as well a members of the Greek Orthodox Clergy and the Parade Committee.
Just before thanking all of this years participants and inviting all the spectators back next year, father and son, Former US Senator Paul Sarbanes and Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes presented the “Paul Sarbanes Public Service Award,” to this year’s parade committee recipient, Panagiota “Pitsa” Balomas for all her tireless efforts, as fellow Parade Committee member, Co-Chair and Masters of Ceremonies, George A. Stakias bid everyone farewell until next year.