Let’s Go Greek Festival returns to Parramatta with a bang

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With the scent and smoke of kontosouvli wafting through the air and Greek music booming loudly through the speakers, everyone in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta knew the Let’s Go Greek Festival had returned with a bang on Sunday.

Over 30,000 people flowed onto the grounds of St Ioannis Greek Orthodox Church at Parramatta on the day to take in the sights, smells and sounds of Greek culture and heritage.

People enjoyed live Greek music by Iho Nyx band, Telly and Kosta Benetatos, Nikitas Ellenis, as well as some cool tunes by deejay’s Jimmy V and Georgie D. They also browsed a marketplace of Greek products such as icons, Christmas decorations and jewellery.

One stallholder, Sophie Valiontis, told The Greek Herald on the day she was really happy to be selling candles and “other knick-knacks” at the festival.

“It’s been amazing. As soon as the gates opened you just felt the aura and everyone’s excitement to be here,” Ms Valiontis said with a huge smile.

Next, The Greek Herald was drawn to the scent of the pork and chicken souvlakia for sale, as well as the kontosouvli. Along the way, children could be seen blowing bubbles, chasing after each other with huge smiles on their faces, getting their faces painted, and petting small animals such as a donkey, goat and little ducklings from a visiting ‘Kindy Farm.’

Amusement rides such as a huge slide and jumping castle, as well as carnival games like ‘Balloon Blast’ and ‘Laughing Clowns’ also kept the children entertained.

Of course, there was plenty of things for adults to do as well.

On the day, they could take in four exhibitions which included a display of traditional Greek costumes and textiles, a photographic exhibition by Nick Bourdaniotis, an exhibition showcasing the connection between Hydra and Parramatta, and a display of items from Yiannis Mazmanidis’ collection.

On the main stage, there were also a number of speeches from official guests which could be listened to.

Speeches were given by His Grace Bishop Iakovos of Militoupolis representing Archbishop Makarios of Australia; the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Christos Karras; Federal Member for Parramatta, Andrew Charlton MP, representing Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese; NSW Labor Leader, Chris Minns MP; NSW Minister for Corrective Services, Dr Geoff Lee MP, representing NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet; NSW Minister for Multiculturalism, Mark Coure MP; Member for Rockdale, Steve Kamper MP; the Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Parramatta, Sameer Pandey; the President of the Hellenic Orthodox Community of Parramatta & Districts and the President of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia Inter-Communities Council of NSW, Kos Dimitriou; and the Executive Director of Business Western Sydney, David Borger.

In his speech, the NSW Labor Leader spoke about his strong connection to the state’s Greek community and expressed his amazement at how many people were present at the festival.

“There’s a real sense of community here, almost a village-like atmosphere and it’s great to see so many people coming together and celebrating after what’s been a very difficult two years,” Mr Minns said.

This sentiment was echoed by the Greek Consul General who said the festival enabled “Greek Australians and the broader Australian society to have an authentic experience of all things Greek that have creatively enriched multicultural Australian society.”

Next to the stage was the newly-elected Federal Member for Parramatta, Mr Charlton. The MP spoke proudly of the strong Greek links in Parramatta and expressed his hope for the building of the new Greek Orthodox church.

“We are on very special ground here and we’re excited to see the development of the church that will rise up on these very lands and create a wonderful new location for the Greek community in Parramatta,” Mr Charlton said.

Dr Lee MP spoke along similar lines and stressed how far the church and local Greek community has come in his last 12 years as the State Member for Parramatta.

The President of the Hellenic Orthodox Community of Parramatta & Districts, Kos Dimitriou, also spoke as the host of the festival and thanked everyone for attending, as well as the volunteers for dedicating their time to the event.

“It is great to see so many people here today. We invite you to have a great time and enjoy the experience of being Greek for one day. Celebrations like this are not uncommon things for Greeks,” Mr Dimitriou said.

At the conclusion of these official proceedings, which were emceed by Paul Nicolaou, the winner of the four return flight tickets to Greece, donated by the host of My Greek Odyssey Peter Maneas, was announced.

In a surprise twist, the winner was contacted by phone and when it was discovered he had a family of six, Maneas decided to throw in two extra tickets to Greece. Aussie Industries also generously donated $5000 spending money.

Later, people were able to enjoy a number of traditional Greek dancing performances by St Ioannis Parramatta Greek dancing group, Sydney Sizmos, and the Paroula Traditional and Contemporary Greek Dance Group, among many others.

As the day drew to a close, the night really ended with a bang as people enjoyed watching on as a beautiful fireworks display lit up the night sky.

*All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.

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