An estimated 45,000 people attended the Paniyiri Greek Festival in Brisbane last weekend, adding another successful chapter to the festival’s forty-seven year tradition.
The city of Brisbane produced its finest late-autumn weather on both Saturday and Sunday, with blue skies over Musgrave Park against the backdrop of The Greek Club and Greek Community of St George.
The festivities began at midday on Saturday, with thousands of kilograms of souvlaki, grilled seafood and souvla meats, sheftalies, honey puffs and other traditional Greek delicacies collectively served across the network of stall operators hailing from Brisbane’s Greek community.
Endless lines formed in the park for a taste of what the Kos Club, Chios Association, Brisbane Olympic, Cyprus Community, Pan-Macedonian Federation, Cretan Association, Greek Orthodox Youth – GOYA and other local organisations had to offer.
Speaking to Neos Kosmos on Saturday, Michael Anastas, President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Brisbane, mentioned that “It’s just really good to be back on the park.”
“It’s a great opportunity for all our Greek associations and parishes to fundraise and put profits back into the community,” Anastas said, “and all those services that do great things for all of the community in south-east Queensland.”
“We’ve got some Greek-born DJs up there that are doing great things with our youth, the cooking demonstrations upstairs as well,” Anastas added, “we’ve got some Adelaide visitors and everyone from across Australia.”
“It’s really just great to be in the middle of Brisbane, in Queensland’s greatest city and Australia’s greatest city.”
The historic Queensland Greek associations were joined at the Paniyiri by dozens of private stall operators along the Greek Club precinct on Edmonstone Road, including major sponsors The Coffee Club and Madd Loans.
Established in 2012, Madd Loans has risen to prominence throughout south-east Queensland via the direction of Founder and Mortgage Broker, George Samios.
“We like to show the community that we give back,” said Samios on Saturday.
“We sponsor the Paniyiri because we believe what the Paniyiri does, this one event gets all the different Greek associations together,” Samios said.
“It keeps our Greek community in Brisbane strong, hopefully the next generation keeps it going.”
With musicians playing in the plateia courtyard throughout the weekend, a honey puff-eating contest, a Greek coffee relay and cultural dance performances all took turns on the main stage throughout the weekend, including Brisbane’s historic Hellenic Dancers group and a traveling group from the Canberra Hellenic Club.
Youth leader Apostolos ‘Laki’ Keramidas from GOYA spoke to Neos Kosmos on Saturday, highlighting the Paniyiri as expression of “everything that it means to be Greek, especially as a Greek-Australian.”
Long-established as the central Greek youth organisation in Brisbane, GOYA ran two stalls throughout the weekend, selling frappes and soft drinks both on Musgrave Park and in the upper-level plateia, led by President, Agapi Kalligeros.
“It’s our opportunity to showcase to the public and general community of Brisbane as well, everything that makes us who we are,” said Keramidas, who was recently acknowledged as the 2021 Brisbane Young Citizen of the Year.
“It’s a sense of togetherness, a sense of camaraderie. [GOYA] are a celebration of not just our history, but also our future.”
GOYA delegates joined dozens of Paniyiri volunteers and festival-goers on the upper level balcony of The Greek Club for a ‘thank you’ side event at sunset on Saturday, hosted by The Greek-Australian Society, with GAS members and friends traveling from across the country to connect and unwind after an intense first day.
Sunday morning saw the official ceremonies conducted, with official addresses from delegates across the broader community, including Greek Orthodox Bishop Emilianos of Meloa and Brisbane Lord Mayor, Adrian Schrinner.
Speaking to Neos Kosmos backstage on Sunday, Kos Kastrissios, Co-Chairman of the Paniyiri Organising Committee said that the weekend attendance was on course to match peak numbers from recent years, a tremendous feat given the size of Brisbane’s Greek community.
“We won’t find out [official attendance figures] probably until the middle of next week,” Kastrissios said, “but last year we got to around the 45-thousand mark.”
“Yesterday seemed like it was on track like last year, I think we’ll hit the 40-45 [thousand].”
“I think it shows, even though there’s not many of us here, like in the southern States, we’re a tight-knit community, we’re all volunteers,” Mr Kastrissios added.
“it’s all not-for-profit and we really come together to put on a good show.”
Across both days, the clear consensus from the many thousands of attendees, participants, organisers and volunteers was that the 2023 Paniyiri Greek Festival was a resounding success.
“The people have come, it’s turned out a beautiful weekend,” noted Kastrissios.
“The best part I think is seeing everyone enjoy themselves.”