SAN FRANCISCO – The 43rd Annual Greek Orthodox Folk Dance & Choral Festival (FDF) of the Metropolis of San Francisco was held at the Ontario Convention Center in Ontario, CA February 14-17.
Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco shared his thoughts about the event that has become central to the Hellenic spirit of the youth of the Metropolis. “It was an excellent festival from every aspect,” Gerasimos said, adding that “over 3,000 children were in attendance with 112 dance and choral groups representing 35 parishes.”
The theme for this year’s event, “STAND”, took on many different meanings throughout the festival and gave participants the opportunity to reflect on the values and priorities in their lives, what they stand for, the things that influence their actions, and how they practice their faith.
Metropolitan Gerasimos noted the importance for youth of the question, “What do you stand for?” He said, “this is the question I asked the thousands of people at the start of FDF, emphasizing that we must stand for our Faith, stand by each other, and most important, stand by God.”
Gerasimos told TNH that, “we had the honor and the joy to have with us this year once again His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, who stayed throughout the performances.”
Gerasimos praised the 34 high school students from the St. Achillios Music School of Larissa, Greece, saying, “they were very good and polite children who made excellent impressions.” The children offered a special dance exhibition as part of their tour to the United States.
Gerasimos noted that “FDF is a tremendous vehicle for actively engaging our youth in the Church, and this year was especially noteworthy for the multitude of ways that everyone came together to help those in need – those who are hungry, those with cancer, and our Theological school.”
Hundreds of participants gathered for a Diakonia project, coordinated by the Metropolis of San Francisco Philoptochos in support of Rise Against Hunger. Dancers, parents, grandparents, and friends came together to package 43,000 meals to feed the hungry.
Nearly 30 Metropolis Clergy were in attendance at the Opening Ceremony, participating with Gerasimos in the Agiasmos Holy Water service. Special video greetings were presented from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the President of Greece Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
A special presentation was made to dancer Sophia Kaplanis who has been battling cancer for three years and worked hard to perform this year with her dance group one last time before they go to college. Sophia spent considerable time at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, but even though she was far away from her Metropolis family, she was always near in prayer, support, and love. Through the proceeds from the sale of “I Stand With Sophia” t-shirts and the generosity of several individual donors, FDF made a contribution of $25,000 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in her honor. Just two days before FDF, another young dancer, Kiki Kitsinis, was diagnosed with cancer on her 18th birthday. FDF is also rallying around Kiki and her family to help her on her journey to a cancer-free life.
On Sunday morning Archbishop Demetrios officiated at the Divine Liturgy with many Metropolis clergy serving at the Holy Altar and with chanting by the choir of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Sunday’s collection trays raised $10,000, which FDF is donating to Hellenic College Holy Cross.
There was a memorial service for the founder of FDF, Metropolitan Anthony, of blessed memory, and for many others who supported this special ministry over the past 43 years and have reposed in the Lord.
The Advanced Senior Competition on Sunday afternoon featured the ten outstanding groups who performed suites from Crete, Pontos, Macedonia, Epiros, and Arkadia. Their precision and stylistic interpretations were truly magnificent works of artistry.
The Awards Banquet was filled with excitement as the groups waited for the presentation of medals. There were 70 award categories in the areas of Dance, Instrumental Music, Choral Music, Costumes, Directors, and Special Achievement. Top honors went to: Choral Sweepstakes Winner – Aloha Youth Choir from Sts. Constantine and Helen Cathedral, Honolulu, HI; Division II Dance Sweepstakes – Hara from the Annunciation Church in Sacramento, CA; and Division I Sweepstakes – Oikogeneia from Holy Trinity Church in San Francisco, CA.
There were also ten scholarships presented for academic achievement, parish involvement, and FDF participation. Two other awards were presented on Sunday evening – the Metropolitan Anthony Humanitarian Award given to Apostolos “Paul” Pries for his outstanding and exemplary stewardship of the Church; and the Elios Charitable Foundation Award of Excellence to Vicki Liviakis, Emmy award-winning news anchor in San Francisco who has supported many programs that promote Hellenism.