The Greek Festival of Sydney has ensured its mighty reputation as one of NSW’s biggest multicultural staples remains fully intact with another massive event at Darling Harbour, this year marking the 20th anniversary of the celebration being in the heart of the city.

The Greek Fest took over Sydney this past weekend with numerous stalls, dance groups, music, and fun competitions and activities all providing endless entertainment and joy for the thousands of attendees from all sorts of cultural backgrounds.

A chief attraction this was the concert by Greek singer Melina Aslanidou to help bring a fantastic conclusion to the weekend-long celebration.

Nia Karteris, the Festival Chair, remarked on the fantastic successes of the event, particularly in regard to bringing in the youth.

Melina Aslanidou at the Sydney Festival. Photo: Neos Kosmos

“The biggest challenge (and the more we talk about it, the better chance we have of achieving our goals) is to keep the young people part of the Festival and the culture through things like dancing and the language,” Ms Karteris told Neos Kosmos, while also acknowledging the publication’s presence at the event.

She highlighted the presence of the students from the Combined Universities Greek Association (CUGA) across the weekend, which she hopes will help keep the youth engaged with the culture and perhaps encourage study of Greek at university level.

“It is great to have their presence here so they can promote their activities to other students, and even hopefully get more students to learn Greek after they finish High School,” she said.

“I know they are challenged by it but I think that is the only way we can survive this hardship we are going through with the Greek language, especially at tertiary level.”

This year saw some innovation brought into the fold with the introduction of a rap competition and a tavli competition at Darling Harbour, while there is also a Youth arts and culture competition in store for next month.

Ms Karteris articulated that part of maintaining relevance is in bringing innovation into the mix for the Festival.

“We have to adapt and come up with new ideas otherwise we will not be able to continue what we are doing… I know technology has to be brought into it and that is our next step. Every year is a challenge but I think that every year we can also come up with something new,” she said.

She concluded by reiterating this is just the start of a three-month campaign of over 30 events engaging with the arts and culture.

“It is great and I have seen sales go through the roof this week once we announced our program and that gives us the courage and the vision to continue what we are doing,” the Festival chair said.

As is common, the celebration at Dalring Harbour attracted many special guests and speakers for the official program, which began with a smoking ceremony initiated by members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Harry Danalis, President of the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW (GOC), praised the continued support shown by the NSW government towards the Festival and requested that the Federal government follow in kind.

“By encouraging multiculturalism, they are not only encouraging the communities to retain their culture, but they are also assisting with the integration of migrants into the wider Australian community,” the GOC President said in his speech.

NSW Premier Chris Minns expressed his belief that our ancestors past who made the leap of faith to come to this country would be most proud of the successes we have managed to have.

“They look back with pride for one simple reason: it will have meant that all the sacrifice that they took and made to come to this country had paid off,” he said.

NSW Opposition leader Mark Speakman echoed this sentiment, stating “we celebrate the Greek Diaspora, one of the largest in NSW, and their contribution to business, family, religion, art, politics. We celebrate this Festival which celebrates all that is great about Greeks”.

Ioannis Mallikourtis, Consul General of Greece in Sydney, spoke highly of how the Greek community has managed to hold onto to its culture and stressed the importance of ensuring that hard work carries on to our youth.

“We have to ensure that we pass on our values and language to the next generation and not to lose what we have built over so many years,” he said.

His Grace Bishop Christodoulos of Magnesia, Hierarch, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia represented Archbishop Makarios at the event and spoke about the significance of celebrating our Hellenic identity through this Festival.

“Being Greek permeates our existence once we are shareholders of the cultural identity…Being Greek is noticeable in the way we come together when we face adversities.

Representing the Prime Minister was Matt Thistlethwaite, Member for Kingsford Smith, who thanked the Greek community on behalf of the PM and noted that “Australia simply would not be Australia without the contribution of people of Greek heritage”.

Linda Burney, Minister for Indigenous Australians and Member for Barton, congratulated the Festival on its growth from its humbler beginnings decades ago to its now giant celebration in Darling Harbour, where it has been for 20 years.

“You must think back to 1982 how small the Greek Festival was in gold old Marrickville and look at it now. Thousands and thousands of people from the Greek community coming to celebrate culture, song, dance, and togetherness. That is what the wonderful thing of these festivals is, bringing people together,” she said.

Representing the Federation Opposition was David Coleman (Member for Banks), who said “it is wonderful through this festival that we celebrate all the facets of the arts, and we celebrate the fact that Greek-Australians have made an unbelievable contribution to this nation”.

Melos Sulicich, CEO of Bank of Sydney which proudly presented the Festival, also made reference to the wide calendar of events as part of the Greek Festival of Sydney, saying that “there is lots of opportunity to get involved, have some fun and strengthen your multicultural connections”.

More photos bellow:

The CUGA stall. Photo: Neos Kosmos
Sydney Sizmos Performers. Photo: Neos Kosmos
Sydney Sizmos Performers. Photo: Neos Kosmos
Aristotelian Academy of Greek Traditional Dancers. Photo: Neos Kosmos
Sophia Ventouris School of Greek Dance and Culture. Photo: Neos Kosmos
Sophia Ventouris School of Greek Dance and Culture. Photo: Neos Kosmos
Sydney Sizmos Performers. Photo: Neos Kosmos
Greek Orthodox Community of NSW Dance Group. Photo: Neos Kosmos
Greek Orthodox Community of NSW Dance Group. Photo: Neos Kosmos
Greek Orthodox Community of NSW Dance Group. Photo: Neos Kosmos