Perfect weather, a new improved set-up and Antipodes Festival 2011 shone. Record numbers walked throughout Lonsdale street in two days of eating, drinking, dancing and celebrating Apokreas. Over 100,000 people participated making Antipodes festival the biggest Greek festival in the world outside of Greece.

The Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu, who spoke at the Glendi on Saturday night, was impressed with the turn-out of people. The Premier said that the Glendi is “not only for Greek-Australians but for all Victorians”. Mr Baillieu also announced on the night that annual funding for the Glendi has been raised from $75,000 a year to $100,000.

The dates of the Antipodes Glendi changed from March 25 to April 5 aligning the festival with Greek Apokries. The theme of Apokries, or Carnivale, will now be an ongoing theme. This year the Dionesian antics were expressed in costumes, irreverant cross-dressing and hijinxs from various regions of Greece as well as locals.

The main stage on Lonsdale street played host to a variety of Greek cultural experiences with Greek music sensations Zig Zag and Ta Paithia Tis Patras closing both nights, with the crowd overflowing with kefi and dancing. Even the Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Nick Kotsiras, got on stage and danced.

Bill Papastergiadis, President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, told Neos Kosmos about his many highlights of the weekend festival. “The highlight for me was the stage on both Saturday and Sunday night and the crowds around it which was ecstatic and people danced around all night. It’s rare to see the city so busy on a Sunday night, but it was. Many people commented to me that this is the only festival in Melbourne where the city of Melbourne closes a major thoroughfare for two days. It’s important for all of us Greeks to remember that the city doesn’t close down for anyone but for the Greeks for two days in March.”

By the end of Saturday and Sunday night, the stage was filled with revelers getting up and dancing alongside the band Ta Paithia Tis Patras and the people below watching made sure they were moving their feet. The Paithiki Hara section allowed the children to enjoy the festival with junior Greek dance performances, Greek storytelling, student performances and Greek arts and crafts workshops.

“When I first arrived at the Glendi,” Mr Papastergiadis said, “I entered through Swanston street into Pandora’s playground, the paithiki hara, and I could hear the voice of a young person singing and as I turned the corner there was this little 10 year-old girl singing in Greek to a captive audience of young people and I thought that’s what it’s about.”

A big success story from this year’s festival was the introduction of the Clive Peeters Greek Kitchen where Greek chefs gathered and showcased the wonderful and exciting elements of Greek cuisine. But not only traditional cooking, a new contemporary culinary style that incorporates traditional ingredients with a modern twist. “Phil Vakkos, who is the young masterchef, said after his show it took him half an hour to walk away from his stand because people wanted to stop, talk and explain what he was doing. We are bringing into the fold, not just the traditional souvlakia that we’ve had historically, but blending in contemporary cooking, contemporary ideas and young people providing their own experiences.”

The Plateia section showcased the diversity of traditions in each region of Greece but also the similarities that enriches all Hellenes.

With this new set-up, the Antipodes Glendi is in good stead to continue being a successful cultural event in Victoria. Mr Papastergiadis agrees and emphasises that the festival has to keep on evolving and continue to be representative of the cross-section of Greek regional traditions and culture. He said what made this year’s festival such a success, what the level of experiences the people received, from the moment they arrived that kept them there for most of the day and all through the night.

“The most important thing that came out of this festival,” Mr Papastergiadis told Neos Kosmos, “was not only having the first generation Greeks but also the next generation that is the second generation, my age, bringing their children along because that’s the contuinuity to make sure that this festival not only succeeds today but be successful in going forward for all the years to come.”