Hellenism beats proudly at Darling Harbour to celebrate 20 years of Greek Fest

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The heartbeat of Hellenism washed across Darling Harbour’s Tumbalong Park over two days to celebrate 20 years of the Greek Fest on Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25.

The Greek Fest – which is organised by the Greek Festival of Sydney supported by the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW (GOCNSW) – saw thousands of people flock to Darling Harbour to get a taste of Greek food, dance and music.

Greek Fest Darling Harbour
All photos copyright: The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.
Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour

Families of all sizes and people of all ages, ranging from toddlers to elderly grandparents, enjoyed themselves as Tumbalong Park came alive with numerous dance performances by traditional and modern Greek and Cypriot dancers, and a plethora of international and local performers. 

Greek Fest Darling Harbour

The popular Greek Australian band IHO NYX wowed the crowd on Saturday night, while international Greek vocalist Melina Aslanidou took to the stage on Sunday. Aslanidou’s performance involved a special appearance from the Pontoxeniteas NSW dance group as a way to honour the singer’s Pontian roots.

Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Melina Aslanidou.

Other Greek dancing groups also took part in the two-day festivities, performing in front of large crowds across three stages – the Darling Quarter Village Green South stage, the Palm Grove stage, and the main stage. Thanks to a recent upgrade, the main stage looked bigger and better than ever. This was the first time the main stage had been used for any cultural festival in NSW.

Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour

Dancing groups included the Aristotelion Academy of Greek Traditional Dancers, Sophia Ventouris School of Greek Dance & Culture, Kimata Dance School, Sydney Sizmos, Cyprus Community of NSW Dance Group, Greek Orthodox Community of NSW Dancers under instruction by Paroula Thurban, Pontoxeniteas NSW, the Cretan Association of Sydney and NSW, Canberra Hellenic Dancers, the Greek Community of Newcastle Hellenic Dancers, Rallis School of Greek Dance, Kalymnian Association of NSW Dance Group, and the Greek Dance Rhythms Group.

Amongst all the dancing and music, an array of Greek delicacies were also served by food vendors during the weekend celebrations. From classic to modern twists on Greek snacks and sweets, attendees savoured the flavours of souvlakia, haloumi, loukoumades, and more. 

Festivalgoers could also be seen browsing a number of stalls selling handmade jewellery, candles and religious icons, whilst the children enjoyed magic shows, colouring and face painting, and the 1st Rap Competition in Greek.

Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour

‘It’s a full park celebrating Hellenic culture’:

As the Greek Fest was celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, a number of official guests were in attendance to mark the special occasion.

Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour

This included, but is not limited to, the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Ioannis Mallikourtis; NSW Premier Chris Minns; NSW Liberal Leader, Mark Speakman; Bishop Christodoulos of Magnesia; Federal Member for Kingsford Smith, Matt Thistlethwaite MP; Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney MP; Federal Member for Banks, David Coleman MP; NSW Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism, Mark Coure MP; NSW Minister for Finance, Courtney Houssos MLC; NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, Sophie Cotsis MP; President of GOCNSW, Harry Danalis; Chair of the Greek Festival of Sydney, Nia Karteris; Bank of Sydney CEO, Melos Sulicich; and a number of other politicians and Greek community leaders.

Greek Fest Darling Harbour

Emcee Mr Tsilimos kicked off the official program with a Welcome to Country by Uncle Alan Madden and a traditional smoke ceremony, followed by the National Anthems of Greece and Australia. Speeches were then given by Mr Danalis, Mr Mallikourtis, Bishop Christodoulos, Mr Minns, Mr Speakman, Mr Thistlethwaite, Ms Burney, Mr Coleman, Mr Sulicich, and Ms Karteris.

Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Greek Fest Darling Harbour
Melos Sulicich.

In his speech, Mr Mallikourtis congratulated the organisers of the Greek Festival of Sydney for being able to promote the Greek culture in Australia for more than 20 years, and thanked Greek migrants for their contribution to Australia’s multicultural society.

“I was told that the Greek ships arriving in Sydney used to arrive about two kilometres from here until the 1970s, one a week, and some of you who are here today were on those ships,” Mr Mallikourtis started.

“If someone had told you then that in about 40 or 50 years’ time the whole leadership of the state and of the country would be at Greek Festival and that you would be able to sing your songs, and eat your food, and have a great time with Greek traditions, you’ll probably think that he or she would be out of his or her mind… so you’ve gone a very long way and we’re very grateful to Australia for having provided these opportunities to our compatriots.”

NSW Premier Minns also approached the podium to speak, drawing loud applause from the crowd as he joked that he “knew the Greeks would pull a bigger crowd than [singer] Taylor Swift.” Swift’s recent Sydney concerts drew tens of thousands of fans to stadiums to watch her perform.

“This is amazing,” Mr Minns said as he looked at the thousands of people standing around. “It’s a full park celebrating Hellenic culture and the Greek community in Australia.

“Those who came to this country on boats for decades… would look at the Greek community of Australia today with enormous pride… for one simple reason – it will have meant all of the sacrifices they took to come to this foreign country paid off.”

NSW Liberals Leader Mark Speakman also praised Greeks for all they’ve achieved since migrating to Australia, and praised festival organisers for the event.

“[Tonight] we celebrate the Greek diaspora, one of the largest in NSW… and their contribution to business, to families, to religion, to art, to politics. We celebrate this festival as a great chance to celebrate all that is great about Greeks,” Mr Speakman said.

For her part, Ms Karteris spoke proudly as the Chair of the Greek Festival of Sydney, touching on the 20-year history of the Greek Fest and encouraging the state and federal governments to continue supporting it.

The official speeches ended with the arrival of Aslanidou who had people singing along to her rhythmic music and slowly jumping up to dance the night away.

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