The Antipodes Glendi on Lonsdale Street shone bright in the balmy Saturday night with an estimated crowd of over 90 000 people as the glorious voice of Glykeria delighted the audience with her superlative performance.
The festival crowd, estimated at over 150 000 people over the two days, is the largest in a decade, according to police reports. Lonsdale Street was busy with a great mix of families old and young, from all over Victoria and importantly, a good mix of Greeks and non-Greeks.
When Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE) asked the president of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne, Victoria Bill Papastergiadis how he felt about the large crowds he responded, “We are exhilarated it was a unanimous stamp of approval by the public. They voted with their feet.”
Mr Papastergiadis added, “We invited various mayors from other municipalities and they were astounded by the sheer size and excellence of the festival, in fact the Premier (John Brumby) turned to me to me said, ‘This is fantastic, it is a major event.’”
Forty-three stalls showcased an array of Greece’s rich culture, from cultural and arts displays, to media outlets, to Greek schools and organisations, kids’ face painting and poem readings, clown and dodgy ball throwing games, as well as outlets selling souvlaki, frappe, and loukomades.
Festival highlights included the launch of local Australian singer, Maria Maroulis’s three new singles at the Festival as well as the one hour performance by Stephan Kydas, 27 of East Bentleigh, to win Sunday’s Zorba till you drop competition. His reward for his sterling effort was a trip to Greece and three internal tickets to any Aegean island of his choice.
Souvlathon, the souvlaki eating competition, held on Saturday was won by Alex, who managed to eat three and a half souvlaki in three minutes, with a total of seven throughout the competition.
The moving re-enactment of the Oath of Independence in 1821 staged by the Pan Maniot Union of Australia, together with the Pallaconian Association and the Greek Orthodox Community dance group was a real hit with the crowd.
The armed war heroes were led to the stage on the back of six horses, wearing authentic replica costumes with original flintlocks, swords, and jewellery from the period.
The spectacular performance of singing and dancing including the Dance of the Dead from Messolonghi, moved the parliamentary delegation from Greece to such a degree that they delayed their departure from the festival until the performance was over.
A member from the Antipodes board who talked to NKEE from the VIP marquee without wanting to be named said, “The success of this event, the additional and substantial funding from the Victorian government, the fact that all the political leadership from opposition and government are here, and the mass crowds, are a final and clear vindication of Bill’s (Papastergiadis) leadership after the terrible last few years when we almost disappeared in a mire of self doubt.”
He went on to say that, “Bill (Papastergiadis) proved to the doubters by resurrecting interest in the Community (GOCMV), in our schools and in our festival. He secured the right staff, tweaked the board and finally got the government to give us funding that the community deserves.”
Festival Chair, Leonidas Vlahakis expressed his satisfaction with the overall outcome and atmosphere of the Glendi.