Who said that you can’t have a festival in winter?
Challenges are for the brave and the Cyprus Community of South Australia committee and tireless army of more than 50 volunteers proved once more last weekend that with teamwork and great supporters anything is possible.
“Everyone is used to having the annual Cyprus festival in February but unfortunately back then our state was experiencing the peak of the pandemic therefore we decided to keep everybody safe and had to postpone the event,” Cyprus Community of SA President, Professor Andreas Evdokiou, told The Greek Herald.
“When we were planning this two-day winter festival, we were not sure if it was going to work. It’s very important to us and it’s about bringing people together to share our unique culture and heritage.”
More than 2,000 South Australians braved the weather and crossed the gates of the Community’s centre in Welland, where the inaugural event was held, to enjoy music, traditional dances and food prepared by the Community’s volunteers.
“Thirty volunteers who worked for two days turned eighty kilos of mince into sheftalies (Cypriot lamb and pork sausages) and we made 700 shiamishi (phyllo filled with semolina cream) for our attendees,” President of the Ladies Auxiliary, Thekla Petrou, said proudly.
“We love what we do it all for our future generations.”
Attending the event were a number of dignitaries among them Bishop Silouan of Sinope, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Energy and Mining Tom Koutsantonis, Minister for Small and Family Business, Consumer and Business Affairs and the Arts Andrea Michaels, Shadow Minister for Tourism and Hospitality and Multicultural Communities Jing Lee, SA-Best MLC Connie Bonnaros, Labor MP for Badcoe Jayne Stinson, Chair of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission (SAMEAC) Adriana Christopoulos, Bank of Sydney CEO Miltos Michaelas, Australian Hellenic Medical Charity President Kostas Barkoukis and GOCSA President Con Papakonstantinou.
In his speech President Evdokiou paid tribute to former GOCSA President, the late Bill Gonis who “was a great supporter of the Cyprus Community.”
“We are going to miss him,” Professor Evdokiou said before thanking the state government, Bank of Sydney, Specialty Foods and other sponsors for their support.
Addressing the attendees, Minister Koutsantonis acknowledged the previous government’s commitment to the Cyprus community with an annual grant of $30,000 and promised that “going forward, nothing will change.”
“Whether in Cyprus or in Asia Minor or all around the world we live, we gather, we celebrate our culture because we cannot forget who we are or where we came from,” said the Minister and took the opportunity to send a message to the EU and NATO.
“We’ve seen how the world has reacted to the invasion of Ukraine. We’ve seen the response from the European Union. Well, there’s another European country that’s also occupied with foreign invaders and that is Cyprus. We need the same attention for Cyprus as we see for Ukraine.”
In their speeches Ms Lee and Ms Christopoulos praised the Community for their work and for enriching the state’s multicultural tapestry.
“Every time I walk in here, I am greeted with big smiles and a hand reach out to say welcome,” Ms Lee said.
For Australian of Greek Cypriot heritage, author Stephanie Timotheou and her family, events like this are what keeps them connected to their heritage.
“We love coming to the Cypriot Festival every year. It’s a very important thing for us and our children so they can see what our culture is all about and where we came from. It’s about keeping our culture alive,” Ms Timotheou said.
“My little one loves the food, loves the music, loves the dancing. I feel as the years go on, we forget where we came from. This kind of events is what keeps the tradition going.”
The Cyprus Community of SA is set to hold its next festival in February 2023.