It wasn’t just Greek Australians that graced Musgrave Park in Brisbane last weekend, but all Australians from a plethora of nationalities to take part in the two-day Greek festival, the Brisbane Paniyiri. The festival keeps going from strength to strength every year, and this year was no exception, attracting not only strong crowds all weekend but politicians too. The Premier of Queensland Campbell Newman opened the festival and was eager to chat with locals and stall holders at the event. So was former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd – a Queensland local. Also in attendance was the Honorary Consul of Greece in Queensland, Jim Raptis, all weekend.
The Brisbane Paniyiri is a festival that combines Greek culture and traditions and fuses them with the wider Australian society, making it a truly multicultural event. The event isn’t just a two day extravaganza, but encompasses a wide cultural program that begins earlier in the week. Along with Queensland professors, interstate acts make the trip each year, with countless lectures, exhibitions and films giving audiences a sit down program to enjoy with the paniyiri.
For the paniyiri staples, work began on Thursday and Friday as more than 50 stalls started to take shape. Early in the morning on Saturday, Edmonstone Street was closed off and the road took on some Greek colours.
Surrounded by the St George Church, the Greek school and the Greek Club, the festival showed the best of the Greek community in Brisbane. More than 50,000 festival goers flooded the park to be treated to hours of dancing and music. The festival also makes the effort to include everyone with a record Zorba attempt. Hundreds joined forces, including many non-Greeks, to dance the famous Greek dance.
Festival organiser Chris Kazonis says the non-Greeks were some of the most enthusiastic.
“Up here you can play Zorba the Greek 50 times and 50 times they’ll dance,” he told Neos Kosmos.
It wouldn’t be the Brisbane Paniyiri without the famous cooking demonstrations, and this year they had a celebrity drawcard. My Kitchen Rules’ Queensland contestants, Jake and Ellie, gave two personalised Greek masterclasses. Countless Brisbane chefs and foodies gave away some of their secrets to making the best Greek treats, while the St George philoptochos society made sure to teach traditional recipes just like your yiayia would make.
Many giggled through the competitive honey puff and olive eating competitions. Speed was the key when faced with plates and plates of food.
A new addition to the paniyiri this year was the 10 bouzouki drumline that amazed those at the main stage on Saturday, while chalk artist Amelia Batchelor created 3D masterpieces around the grounds, all inspired by Greek antiquity.
As one of the best organised and biggest Greek festivals in the country, the Brisbane Paniyiri has rightly made a great name for itself. Many come from interstate just to be a part of it, while it attracts more non-Greeks than any other Greek state festival. In its 37th year, the festival still retains its main aim – to give the Greek community a taste of home – while expanding to accommodate the wider Australian community. A big congratulations to the organising committee, who have worked tirelessly on the festival for almost a year, and the acts that give their time for free each year.