Many thousands attend a rejuvenated ‘Laval Hellenic Summer Festival’

Hellenics turn out for a post-Covid celebration of Greek roots and heritage

Although the organizers of the Laval Hellenic Summer Festival had little more than a week to make arrangements for the three-day celebration in Chomedey last weekend, it was clear during the Saturday evening keynote event that attendance was way up, and Hellenics were eager to get out during the post-Covid era.

A real family event

“We’re really excited about this year’s Greek festival,” said Anna Giorganta, the new president for the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal’s Laval chapter, which organized the event at Holy Cross Church on Souvenir Rd.

As always, the food, including souvlaki and Greek sausage grilled over charcoal, were exquisite at the Laval Hellenic Summer Festival. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

“Post-Covid, it’s so nice to see everybody out here to support us,” she said. “There are a lot of young families here with their children. We’re also very excited to be part of the new regional board, with lots of positive change moving forward.”

Post-Covid Greek Festival

This was the first year since the beginning of the Covid pandemic in early 2020 that HCGM-Laval was able to organize a full-scale Hellenic Summer Festival. Although a smaller festival was held last year, the 2020 event was cancelled entirely, said HCGM-Laval’s new vice-president Chris Papachristou.

Although the Laval Hellenic Summer Festival normally is held on the Canada Day weekend, the recent HCGM elections left newly-elected board members with insufficient time to prepare. “As a new council, we actually had just nine days to plan this year’s event,” said Giorganta.

Timing of HCGM elections

“Because the HCGM elections took place just two weeks ago, timing this festival was just about impossible. This is why we needed to postpone it by a week.” She said the plan moving forward will be to continue the Canada Day weekend tradition on a yearly basis.

HCGM-Laval chapter president Anna Giorganta and vice-president Chris Papachristou helped organize this year’s Hellenic Summer Festival in just nine days. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Despite the one-week delay, newly-elected HCGM president George Tsoukas was upbeat. “We’re kind of late for Canada Day,” he said. “But, as you know, we Greeks know how to throw festivals and parties. So, we expect this weekend to be a whole lot of fun and people are going to really enjoy themselves. There’s great food, dancing and a chance for Greeks to get together.”

A must for dignitaries

“I wish the new board of directors the best of luck, because this is the first festival they are organizing,” said Laval city councillor for Chomedey Aglaia Revelakis. Among the dignitaries also attending on Saturday were Laval city councillor for Souvenir-Labelle Sandra El Helou, l’Abord-à-Plouffe councillor Vassilios Karidogiannis, Vimy MP Annie Koutrakis, and Montreal city councillor for Parc Extension Mary Deros.

Young Greek folk dancers, emblematic of the Laval and Montreal Hellenic community’s future, danced during the evening on Saturday. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

(Councillor El Helou told The Laval News that Mayor Stéphane Boyer had been prepared to attend the festival, and that she was encouraging him to do so, but that unfortunately, in the great haste to organize this year’s event, HCGM-Laval’s invitation somehow got lost or didn’t arrive on time.)

Weather was perfect

While the weather this time of year tends towards thunder storms and sudden downpours of rain, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky last Saturday for the 2022 festival. “We’re blessed with fabulous weather,” said city councillor the Montreal district of Park Extension Mary Deros.

She said she’d heard “through the grapevine” that Greek community representatives in Montreal are hard at work organizing the annual “panigiri” along Saint Roch St. on Aug. 15, coinciding with the Dormition of the Virgin Mary.

Newly-elected Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal president George Tsoukas said Greeks “know how to throw festivals and parties.”

“I think everybody is relieved to start to be able to come out,” said Koutrakis. “It’s great to be able to gather once again with loved ones, friends and family.”

MP sent his regards

One elected official who was unable to attend this year’s festival was Laval-Les Îles Liberal MP Fayçal El-Khoury.

El-Khoury was in the U.S. state of Oklahoma where he was representing Canada during an inter-parliamentary exchange with elected officials there, said El-Khoury’s riding office attaché, Karine Sahakian. “He would have loved to have been here,” she said, noting that El-Khoury has been a regular at the Laval Greek community’s annual summer get-together since he was first elected in 2015.