Let's ignore the fact that it was the first time the Greek Festival was held in the Hunter Valley, at a new venue, with new systems, processes and protocols in place, and let's take a closer look at this event.
A major food provider offering three food stalls pulled out eight days prior to the event over an alleged logistical disagreement with the venue and the organisers. Substitute food providers were called in at the eleventh hour to help. The venue layout was not very well thought out. Even getting into the festival was an arduous task. An apparent lack of staff to assist the elderly and less able-bodied people with access to basic things like food, drinks and toilets, was proving to be difficult to say the least.
The opening band pulled out from performing altogether. The subsequent band played for longer than they had planned. The sound took an eternity to get right. There wasn't a second stage for the dancing groups, instead they danced on bitumen with potholes at their feet... And the list goes on.
But you see, we spoke to many in attendance and saw the faces of most of all who were there and despite some scathing public reviews, it is fair to say the vast majority of people had a gloriously Greek glendi.
And how could they not? Yes, there were queues, but which festival doesn't have queues? Yes, it was sloppy and chaotic at times, but which outdoor event with more than 5000 people in attendance, ever gets it 100% right?
Hope Estate was glistening as it was warmed by the autumn sun that kissed the cheeks of everyone there, on both sides, as is customary amongst Greeks! The smiles on everyone's faces, the laughter of families, children and friends that echoed throughout the valley, the dancing by the Greek dancing schools - all so soulful and moving.
The food, when you finally made your way to the front of the queue, was magnificent, the performances were sensational, the support band, Iho Nyx primed us and made our Hellenic hearts beat faster in anticipation for the main act all the way from Greece, Dimitris Basis, who was astonishing as he mesmerised the thousands in attendance!
The selection of songs, the musicianship, the sound, the kefi, the dancing, the singing, the venue, the organisational skills of the Greek Festival and Hope Estate, when it all finally gelled, was as smooth as the finest red wine that the Hunter Valley could ever produce. The ancient Greek God of wine, Dionysus himself would have been proud!
The Greek Festival breathed life into the region known as 'Wine Country' and was a welcome sight to the locals who have had their businesses impacted by fires, droughts and the obvious drop in tourism since Covid-19 restrictions were introduced.
This was the first major event that the Greek community at large has been able to hold since the outbreak of the pandemic and you could see how much it meant, not just to the Greeks who travelled to be there, but to the locals who were also in attendance. Many people, from all walks of life, from all different nationalities, enjoyed the spectacle that is the Greek Festival.
And while it was a huge risk by the Greek Festival of Sydney's organising committee to take the festival to the Hunter, they must be commended for their bravery, vision and foresight to do so, as it served as one of the greatest Greek community events we've seen since B.C. (Before Covid). It brought together Greeks/Australians from far and wide as they enjoyed a taste of Greece right at their doorstep, and therefore fulfilled all that it had set out to do.
Photography: George Karantonis, Image Smart