Melburnians take the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival for granted, but – as we enjoy the present – there are some fun facts about the festival that you may not know.
By all means, sit back and enjoy the moment, but let’s take a stroll down memory lane…
1) The original idea for the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival, formerly known as the Andipodes Festival, was in fact that of celebrated Greek actress Melina Mercouri. As the Minister for Culture at the time, she submitted her proposal to the then President of the Greek Community of Melbourne, Savvas Papasavvas. The legendary actress even made a commitment to help financially support the development of the Festival, which caused controversy in the Greek Parliament.
2) The first Chairman of the Festival was philhellene and former South Australian Labor leader Don Dunstan, treasurer was Leonidas Argyropoulos, and secretary Peter Treyila. Among the first Board members were Neos Kosmos‘ amazing current Editor-in-Chief Sotiris Hatzimanolis and the late journalist, Kostas Nikolopoulos.
3) The Antipodes Festival wasn’t always held under the sunny skies of February. Initially, it was a continuation of Greek Week, an institution that began in the 1970s as a joint initiative of the Greek Consulate and the community’s Greek newspapers.Later, the Festival was established as a new institution to be celebrated on Greece’s Independence Day, 25 March. In the Festival’s early years, it had its critics, among them the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, which requested that the date of the celebration be changed so that the copious consumption of souvlaki would not coincide with Lenten fasting in the lead up to Easter.
4) Do you think that the biggest Greek event of Melbourne’s calendar year deserves a public holiday? President of the Community, Savvas Papasavvas, thought so and he set out on the ambitious task of persuading local state authorities to declare the day a public holiday, at least for Greek Australians. He was of course unsuccessful. But it was a nice try.
5) The Festival’s most successful year to date was in 1997. With the Monday being a public holiday, that year the event was held over three-days, setting a new record of attendees. The success proved that Mr Papasavvas may hae been onto something on his mission to create a public holiday around the festival.
6) The event is not just for Greeks. In 1987, not only did a multi-page tribute to the Festival appear in Neos Kosmos, but also in mainstream publication The Age.
ABOUT THIS YEAR
+ 1 Here are some interesting facts about this year’s festival: There will be over 70 stalls offering a range of Greek food options and products available, as well as promoting Greek Schools and community groups. The impressive event site, features four stages, and was built overnight by over 20 volunteers/crew members, ranging in ages from 19 to 60, plus hundreds of contractors. Over 600 performers will entertain festival-goers over the two days. And Over 50 competitors will take part in one of three competitions: Zorba Till You Drop, Magic Mic and My Baklava is Better Than Yours/Pita Pride.