March 25th celebration commenced with a celebratory Divine Liturgy commemorating the Feast of the Annunciation followed by a special Doxology recognizing Greek Independence Day
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH — With a commemorative Greek flag that had been ceremoniously flown atop the flagpole at the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis in Athens serving as a backdrop, Utah Governor Spencer Cox proclaimed Thursday, March 25, 2021, as “Greek Independence Day in Utah” at the city’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
The large blue and white banner, beautifully folded and housed in a glass case, was a gift to the citizens of Utah from H. E. the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the Greek Orthodox Church community of Greater Salt Lake, and the Utah Hellenic Cultural Association (HCA).
Encased with the flag are photos of the Acropolis flag ceremony, which included the president, and a copy of a letter issued by the Commander of the Presidential Guard certifying the flag was raised at the Acropolis.
The flag presentation to the governor was the highlight of several bicentennial activities initiated in Utah’s capital by the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake and the HCA, a historical preservation organization.
The governor’s proclamation announcement and flag presentation took place in the stately cathedral that was bedecked in Greek and American flags attended by youths adorned in dress of the Independence Day period – the multi-pleated “foustanela” worn by the males, and long “queen’s ware” dresses worn by the young women.
The governor, a sixth-generation Utahan, noted he learned of Greece’s long struggle for independence from descendants of Greek immigrants living in Price, a town in central Utah, which was near his hometown. Coal mines in the Price area employed hundreds of Greeks during the early 1900s.
His declaration, which he read to the gathering, paid tribute to the Greek freedom fighters of 200 years ago as well as early immigrants to Utah and to the thriving Greek communities in the state today.
Other bicentennial activities commemorating the historic day in the Salt Lake City area included:
- The mayor of Salt Lake City, Erin Mendenhall, signed a proclamation declaring March 25, 2021 as “Greek Independence Day in Salt Lake City, Utah.”
- 200 Greek flags were placed on the lawns of the cathedral and at the Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in Holladay, Utah, 20 miles southeast of downtown. They were placed by the HCA, aided by students of the Hellenic Orthodox School.
- Greek flags prominently were displayed at homes, businesses and offices throughout the region during the bicentennial week.
- The Very Rev. George Nikas and Rev. Patrick O’Rourke conducted liturgy followed by a Doxology to commemorate the historic day which concluded with an emotional singing of the Greek national anthem.
- The flag poles at both churches flew Greek flags the entire week.
- Students at St. Sophia School at the Prophet Elias church recited poems and acted out plays in tribute to the Greeks who fought for their freedom 200 years ago.
George Karahalios, president of the parish council of the Greek church here, said “the Greek community is deeply honored to present the commemorative flag — believed to be the only such flag in the nation — to the governor on behalf of President Sakellaropoulou and the citizens of Greece.”
“The Greek community of Greater Salt Lake is very proud to present such a unique gift to the citizens of Utah,” said Karahalios. “We are sincerely thankful that president Sakellaropoulou entrusted us with such a responsibility.”
Throughout the week, Karahalios lauded the efforts of the American Hellenic Institute, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy organization, and its president and CEO, Nick Larigakis, for their efforts in having the Greek government accommodate Utah’s request providing the centerpiece of Utah’s bicentennial observance.
Karahalios also thanked local parishioner and HCA board member, Mike Korologos, who originated the idea of having the commemorative flag flown at the Acropolis and given to Utah.
Ms. Jeannine Pappas Timothy, president of the HCA, remarked that a second flag, also flown at the Acropolis, will be on display at the organization’s museum, housed in the lower level of the cathedral.
She said the small flags on the lawns at the city’s two Greek churches not only honored the brave souls who won Greece’s independence, but also immigrants who set roots in Utah in the 1890s -1920s and established the city’s “Greek Town,” an enclave of some 100 coffee houses, bakeries, tavernas, hat shops and barber shops near the cathedral in downtown Salt Lake City. Those early arrivals also established the region’s first Greek church nearby in 1905.
Ms. Timothy commented that the HCA museum will house “for posterity” the historic flag from Athens, the proclamations from the governor and the mayor of Salt Lake City, numerous photographs taken at the governor’s visit to the cathedral and of flags at the two churches and homes, as well as newspaper articles and other materials related to the community’s bicentennial observance.