By Peter Tantalos.
The Semaphore Greek Festival, held on January 13 and 14 this year in South Australia, celebrated its 43rd year, transforming the Semaphore Foreshore into a bustling agora of Hellenic culture and traditions.
Over the course of two days, the event saw a record-breaking attendance of 45,000 people who came to experience traditional Greek dances, music and cuisine, and to participate in the vibrant festivities.
Organised by the Greek Orthodox Community of the Nativity of Christ, Port Adelaide & Environs (PAGOC), this year’s Semaphore Greek Festival centred around the theme “Semaphore Smiles” (#sema4smiles), symbolising an open invitation to the diverse South Australian community. The festival aimed at welcoming all communities to participate in Hellenic cultural festivities, celebrating the rich tapestry of diverse cultures in South Australia.
The festival officially began on Saturday with an opening ceremony, heralding a weekend of vibrant cultural festivities. The Hon. Peter Malinauskas, Premier of South Australia, initiated the event with an address, expressing his appreciation to the PAGOC and all the volunteers for bringing “this most extraordinary of Greek festivals together.”
The Premier added, “when we think about the contribution of various cultures to our State, it’s hard to look past that of the Greek community. It is magnificent. It’s not just the aroma’s we are getting at the moment, or the dance, or the culture, it’s that sense of generosity that is routinely showed to everybody throughout the State by the Greek community. This festival is very much an opportunity to celebrate it.”
The Consul General of Greece in Adelaide, George Psiachas, expressed his admiration for the Greek community’s dedication to preserving Hellenic traits, culture, traditions, and language.
He added that “what is very important is that the Greeks of today, of whatever generation, whether they came here 10 years ago, or 20, 30 or 40, keep their ties with their homeland… It is you, in so doing, who are the ambassadors of Greece abroad.”
The President of the PAGOC, John Douvartzidis, President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Port Adelaide, concluded the official ceremony.
“I want to thank everybody that attends the festival… because you support us and encourage us to do more… We have over 300 volunteers and they work very hard… and they are so proud of what they produce and they will keep doing that – because they are doing this for a bigger picture… We are doing this for our next generation, and that’s what’s important. Especially in a country like Australia, in a state like South Australia, multiculturalism is magnificent – it is well supported by everybody,” Mr Douvartzidis said.
Several dance groups showcased their talents over the two days, each bringing their unique style and traditions to their performances. The line-up included performances by the Messinian Dance School of SA, the Port Adelaide Greek School Dance Group, the Pontian Brotherhood of SA Dance Group, the Cretan Association of SA Dance Group, the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia Dance Group, the Greek Lyceum of SA Dance Group, and the Port Adelaide Greek Dance Academy.
These performances highlighted the rich diversity of Greek dance, ranging from traditional folk dances to contemporary interpretations, while also highlighting the younger generation’s connection to their heritage.
Furthermore, the festival showcased interactive and fun activities such as the “Who Loves Pita” and “Honey I Ate the Loukoumades” contests, complemented by the exciting plate smashing event, “Spasta!” These engaging activities encouraged attendees to actively participate in the celebratory atmosphere.
Each evening, as dusk fell and a warm night breeze swept over the festival, the Enosis Band, featuring the renowned violinist and singer Georgia Rappou, took centre stage. Their performance, rich with authentic Greek melodies, resonated along the Semaphore shores, inspiring festival-goers to dance enthusiastically until the event’s close.
As the festival drew to a close, attendees departed with joy and a deeper appreciation of the significant role that diverse cultural heritage plays in enriching Australian society and, importantly, the beautiful culture that the Hellenic diaspora has brought to South Australia.
Special guests and dignitaries attending included Premier Malinauskas; the Hon. Stephen Mullighan MP, Treasurer of South Australia; the Hon. Joe Szakacs, SA Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services; the Hon. Mark Butler MP, SA Minister of Health; the Hon. Jing Lee MLC, Deputy Leader of the SA Opposition; Mr Psiacha; Councillor Peter McGregor, representing the Mayor of the City of Port Adelaide Enfield; Ms Claire Boan; Bishop Silouan of Sinope, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia (South Australia); and Mr Douvartzidis.