193rd Greek Independence Day Parade – New York City 2014
Article & Photos Len Rapoport
IMPress magazine and IPA will be broadening the scope of the events we cover in the New York area to include parades and other street events. From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the St. Patrick’s Day parade we will be adding a number of additional parades to celebrate many cultures and ethnicities.
On Sunday March 30, 2014 starting at 1:45 PM, we covered our first Greek Independence Day parade. It celebrates the Hellenic history and heritage of New York’s Greek community. This is the 193rd annual parade and began at 63rd Street and continued up to 79th street on 5th Avenue. Unfortunately the weather was cold and damp and we dressed in our rain gear just in case the skies decided to open up and drown us. I didn’t pack my regular gear and took one of my simple underwater point and shoot Nikon cameras with me just in case.
Like most parades we have covered in the past, the crowds are treated to the floats, the bands and the parade participants who come from hundreds of Greek organizations including schools, communities and associations. It is the largest gathering of the Greek American community outside of Greece of course and has been going on since 1938. They estimated that there were over 100,000 spectators at the parade and as many as 25,000 participants. Unfortunately, because of the weather, those numbers were, well a hopeful dream and not the reality. There was a number of seats on the grandstands set up and on many blocks only a handful of spectators watching as the proud Greek participants marched with flags in hands, blue ties and scarfs up Fifth Avenue.
Unlike the major New York City parades run by Macy’s or the folks that run the St. Patrick’s Day parade this was a people’s parade. One that celebrated the Greek culture and its hard-working people. It was all about Greek Pride and the 40 year occupation of Cyprus by Turkey.
The floats were not the ones you might see at a Macy’s parade but rather floats with wrought iron railings, decorated with various signs for the companies that sponsored the floats. No marching bands that we have become accustomed to at so many other parades, but traditional Greek music coming from the main stage.
What it had was the Greek people, proud to walk down 5th Avenue with their fellow country men and women. Children and teenagers walking with their parents and grand parents, it was a huge Greek family affair.
Their was entertainment at the parade as well in a small stage set up for the performers. Young Greek men and women treated the spectators to traditional Greek dances and songs.
Although the weather wasn’t ideal, it didn’t stop the thousands that participated and attended the parade and if you were to ask anyone there which parade was the better, their answer would of course be the Greek Independence Day Parade. We would agree it was a grand day for the Greek community and a proud one for those that hold onto their Greek traditions.
[box_light]Greek History – Grand Marshals[/box_light]
This years theme was “The Hellenic Humanistic Ideals and Values, an antidote to the multifaceted global crisis”. It was a celebration for the eternal Greek values and ideas and a commemoration of the 40 year occupation and division of Cyprus by Turkey.
The Grand Marshals of the parade this year was U.S. Senator Charles (Chuck) Schumer and the U.S. Ambassador Designate to Norway, George Tsunis. The senator was honored for his service to the U.S. and the State of New York and has always been a supporter of the Greek-American community and concerned about the Cyprus issues.
Ambassador Tsunis is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Chartwell Hotels s the chairman and CEO of Chartwell Hotels, which owns, develops and manages Hilton, Marriott and Intercontinental hotels in Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, and manages his family’s portfolio of real estate holdings. He is also an active member of the Greek-American community. He is also a philanthropist with contributions to many charities and organizations.
The parade is organized by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York and was established in 1938 and is made up of over 200 groups in the NY City area. These various societies represent over 100 regions in Greece and its goal is to promote Greek culture and heritage. We look forward to next years parade and hope for better weather then we had this day.