GREEK CELEBRATION: Brisbane's annual Paniyiri Greek Festival is on May 18.
GREEK CELEBRATION: Brisbane's annual Paniyiri Greek Festival is on May 18.

Paniyiri celebration showcases everything Greek

OVER the past 40 years the Paniyiri Greek Festival, driven by chairman Chris Kazonis, has grown to become the state's largest cultural festival, as well as the country's longest running Greek Festival.

"Paniyiri holds a special place in the hearts of so many - Greeks and non-Greeks alike,” Kazonis said.

"It is not just a festival for the Greek community, it is a celebration showcasing everything Greek to Southeast Queenslanders.”

Kazonis, who was recently awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to the Greek community - including the Paniyiri Greek Festival, GOYA Youth and the Goodwin Park Sporting Complex - was born in 1952.

His family hails from Greece's picturesque Rhodes Island. He is passionate about his culture and frequently returns to visit.

"It's beautiful there,” he said. "One half is like the busy Gold Coast, the other is like Moreton Island. It's divided into the old city and the new.”

At the heart of Greek culture is the family unit and this strong sense of camaraderie drives the celebrations.

Kazonis said without the community contributions and Paniyiri's many volunteers the festival would not exist as we know it today.

"The festival is constantly evolving and doesn't sit in a time warp. We are continuously creating new experiences and adventures,” Kazonis said.

This year's festival certainly showcases the new. Innovations include combining the traditional sounds of the Greek bouzouki with the digeridoo for the opening ceremony.

A new flavour sensation, Greek yum char, created by Nostimo Restaurant's chef-in-residence David Tsirekas, is another Paniyiri innovation. These initiatives support Kazonis' vision to create a modern cross-cultural celebration that integrates Greek ethos with the myriad diverse cultures that call Australia home.

For those who want a lesson in the art of Greek cooking, the two-day celebration features live cooking demonstrations.

Find Paniyiri at Musgrave Park and The Greek Club, Edmondstone St, South Brisbane, on May 18 from noon and May 19 from 10am.

For more details, go to paniyiri.com.