No words can describe the passion, the culture and the incredible atmosphere that 32,000 people had the opportunity to experience at last weekend’s Delphi Bank Semaphore Greek Festival, which celebrated 41 years of its presence in South Australia.

Organised by the Greek Orthodox Community of the Nativity of Christ Port Adelaide & Environs, the festival is recognised as one of the best cultural festivals in Australia, showcasing and celebrating Greek culture and heritage within South Australia’s broader multicultural context, making all Greek Australians proud of their ancestry and traditions.

Despite the devastating fire that ravaged their iconic church last December, the committee members, together with 350 volunteers ranging from eight to 90 years old, proceeded with this year’s event dedicating endless hours of planning and organising in order to make this year’s festival a celebration of the community’s resilience and strong determination.

“Life is not always easy, and 2019 was definitely challenging for our Community, but this time of hardship has only made us stronger. We learnt that buildings may burn, but our collective memory can never be destroyed,” President of the Port Adelaide Greek Orthodox Community, John Douvartzidis told Neos Kosmos.

“This is us. A full generational circle of love that started so many years ago and will go on forever. The next generation has arrived and is here to stay.”

The younger generation took centre stage, with more than 200 children and youth members of traditional dance groups, bringing joy to the festival-goers, followed by local Greek bands Enosis The Greek Fix, Kosmos and local clarinist Theo Skaltsas who entertained the crowds.

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In addition to the 32,000 attendees who came through the doors during the two-day festival, prominent members of the South Australian community attended the official opening on Saturday night, including the Governor of South Australia, the Honourable Hieu Van Le; MP David Pisoni, Minister for Industry and Skills, representing the Premier of South Australia Steven Marshall; Leader of the Opposition Peter Malinauskas MP; Mayor of the City of Port Adelaide Enfield Claire Boan; Federal Member for Hindmarsh Mark Butler MP; and Chairperson of Inter-Communities Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in South Australia, Con Dalas.

According to President Douvartizidis, the success of the festival is ultimately a credit to its volunteers.

“None of this would have been possible without our volunteers. The feedback we have received so far from those who honoured us with their presence has been incredible, and we are so proud that we were able to deliver to the people’s expectations. As a community we have developed a system that includes everyone and uses the strengths of each generation; the younger ones are in the frontline uplifting the festival with their energy, feeling supported by the strength and rich experience of the older ones with their commitment, devotion and enthusiasm,” said Mr Douvartzidis.

This year a $500 Community Award was introduced by Delphi Bank as an acknowledgement of the hard work and support of the volunteers. The ‘Outstanding Community Service’ Award was presented to youth member Theodoris Koutsoubis who was pleasantly surprised during his shift in the food service.

At 17, Theodoris has been actively engaged in the community for over eight years. As the youth group’s Secretary, he volunteers at festivals, community fundraisers, building activities, and assists the Parish Priest every week in all church services and activities.

Acknowledging that Australia has been battling the horrific bushfires for months, festival organisers and committee also decided to run a fundraising campaign, with all proceeds raised going to the Kangaroo Island Mayoral Relief Fire Fund.

“We have decided as a community to enter 2020 strong and thankful. We celebrate our festival’s 41st anniversary, a festival that is now considered not only a celebration but a symbol of our resilience, commitment and dedication. As we rebuild our church, we also want to see our beautiful country rise from the ashes,” added Mr Douvartzidis.

For the members of the Greek community who were not able to attend, local Greek radio station Radio ENA provided a comprehensive broadcast from the main stage.

Just Gold designed the festival’s digital strategy, also covering the event live across the official social media pages, allowing audiences from around the country and the world to experience the Festival and connect with Port Adelaide throughout the weekend.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank each member of our community and every guest, Greek and non-Greek, that chose to celebrate with us last weekend,” said Mr Douvartzidis.
“This is us. A full generational circle of love that started so many years ago and will go on forever. The next generation has arrived and is here to stay.”

WHAT’S ON Guide: Greek-inspired events across Australia, 22 January onward