Celebrating 20 years: Nia Karteris and the legacy of Greek Fest Darling Harbour

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In the heart of Sydney’s cultural calendar every year stands the Greek Fest at Darling Harbour, a vibrant celebration of Greek culture that has been enchanting audiences for two decades.

Steering this cultural extravaganza since 2003 is Nia Karteris, a woman whose dedication and passion have been instrumental in shaping the legacy of the Greek Fest.

Ms Karteris is Chair of the Greek Festival of Sydney – a 15-week-long initiative featuring over 30 cultural events supported by the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW (GOCNSW).

Reflecting on her role as Festival Chair, Ms Karteris speaks with a blend of humility and pride.

“The role is a huge responsibility,” she tells The Greek Herald, acknowledging the intricate dance of managing funding, sponsorship and at times, unrealistic expectations. “Yet, the organising committee is extremely supportive, and we all work together to ensure we produce the best program year in and year out.”

She adds that despite the challenges of her role, the rewards at the end of the Festival outweigh everything.

“The feeling of being part of such a huge project and seeing it come to fruition, you can’t describe it. And seeing the smiles on people’s faces and the thanks you receive after an event makes it all worth it,” Ms Karteris says.

nia karteris1
Nia Karteris (right) with the President of the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW, Harry Danalis. Photo copyright: The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.

Staying relevant:

As the Greek Fest marks its 20th anniversary at Darling Harbour this year, Ms Karteris explains how far it’s come since its beginnings at Campbell Oval in the 90s and later Bay Street at Brighton-Le-Sands for five years before its current destination at Tumbalong Park.

“In my opinion, when the Greek Fest moved to Darling Harbour, it was a cultural shock to mainstream festivals. Here come a group of Greeks and turn everything upside down, and now we’re the largest multicultural festival at Darling Harbour,” she says.

“We once again led the way as a Greek community and enriched the heart of Sydney.”

Despite this, all Festivals have to evolve and Ms Karteris acknowledges the challenges of staying relevant in a dynamic cultural landscape.

“The Greek Fest has definitely grown over the years and it’s challenging to ensure you keep up with the times and produce a program that will embrace all ages and all communities,” she reflects.

“There are so many more challenges today than there were 20 years ago, so people today have choices and you need to be on top of your game.”

Navigating occasional missteps, Ms Karteris places great value on the cohesion of the organising committee.

“Every day I learn from my mistakes. I have made my share, but the GOCNSW works as a team and supports everyone, and I have always had their support and they have had mine,” she says.

Focus on the next generation:

Looking forward to this year’s Greek Fest, Ms Karteris envisions an experience filled with “fun, entertainment, dancing, laughter, and a focus on youth and our children for the future survival of our culture and language.”

The Festival, in her eyes, is not merely an event but a conduit for passing down cultural heritage to the next generation.

Tumbalong Park, the picturesque venue for the celebrations at Darling Harbour, will come alive with numerous dance performances by traditional and modern Greek and Cypriot dancers, multiple children entertainment options like magic shows, colouring and face painting, the 1st Rap Competition in Greek, and a plethora of international and local performers. 

Greek Fest Darling Harbour celebrates 20 years. Photo: Concrete Playground.

The popular Greek Australian band IHO NYX will perform on Saturday, February 24 at 7pm, while international Greek vocalist Melina Aslanidou will take to the stage on Sunday, February 25 at 7pm. 

An array of Greek delicacies will also be served by food vendors during the weekend celebrations. From classic to modern twists on Greek snacks and sweets, attendees can savour the flavours of souvlakia, haloumi, loukoumades, and more. 

Beyond the festivities, Ms Karteris’ commitment extends to a deeper purpose – the preservation of Greek heritage in a multicultural society.

“I want to be a proud Greek, living in a multicultural society. I [think of] my parents and everyone… who worked to build a community for everyone to be proud of and to ensure the Greek language, culture and religion was not lost…” she says.

“With my small contribution to the community, I hope I can impact the young generation of today to continue their legacy into the next legacy and beyond. What they sacrificed for us to be here today, we can never repay them.”

With the future of the Greek Fest looking bright, Ms Karteris envisions continued success.

“The future is healthy, and the Greek Fest will be here for decades to come. My heart and passion lie in the 30-plus cultural events that excite me. Allowing the Greek Australian artists to express themselves through the arts genre is what the Greek Festival of Sydney is all about,” she concluded.

As the community gathers to celebrate two decades of cultural vibrancy, Ms Karteris stands as a beacon, guiding the Greek Festival of Sydney into a future enriched with promise and cultural richness. In her leadership, the Greek Fest not only commemorates its past, but also embraces a future where Greek culture continues to flourish on the diverse canvas of Sydney’s cultural mosaic.

Event details for the Greek Fest at Darling Harbour:

  • When: Saturday 24 & Sunday 25 February 2024, 10 am -10 pm
  • Where: Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour, Sydney

For more information on the programme and to book tickets to selected events, please visit www.greekfestivalofsydney.com.au

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