CICERO – Cicero celebrates all cultural milestones because that’s the kind of town it is, town President Larry Dominick said.
And on April 17, officials were joined by residents, town police and firefighters, business leaders of Greek blood and even 20 or so Morton High School culinary class students to celebrate when Greece took up arms in 1821 to throw off its Ottoman Empire yoke and earned its independence 11 years later.
Also present was a classic Greek sculpture standing silently and still – occasionally blinking – next to the podium.
The event, emceed by former Cicero Assessor and local historian John Kociolko, began with a presentation of the colors of the U.S. and Greece followed by the national anthems of both countries.
Eleni Bousis, who, with her husband Jimmy and brother-in-law Bob Tzotzolis own Cermak Produce in Hawthorne Plaza, addressed the standing-room-only crowd as a proud Hellenian.
“It’s a very blessed day to be here,” said Bousis, who then spoke briefly about the War of Independence. Later, Bousis spoke proudly of her ancestors’ contributions to the world.
“They gave ... the arts, science, and democracy – the greatest gift,” she said. “It’s important because it shows us that we are all connected; there is no such thing as just Greeks or Americans; we are all connected. There’s nothing more important in life than humanity, respect and freedom.”
Attorney Louis Palivos also reminded the audience of how far a shadow Greece has cast over the civilized world.
“The heart and soul of Western culture is the spirit of the Greeks,” he said. He expanded on the contributions made to the world by Greece, including theater, the alphabet, architecture and Greek mythology, and went on to present a brief but fact-filled history of the Greek War of Independence, including how the United States rallied support for the cause and contributed to the ultimate victory over the Turks.
You won’t necessarily find a Greek neighborhood in Cicero, but the presence is felt strongly in the business community.
Noted were Peter and John Evangelou, owners of the Citgo at 57th Street and Roosevelt Road; Chris Costianis, Dunkin Donuts, Cicero Avenue and Cermak; Louie Raftopoulos, Mr. Submarine, 57th Street and Cermak; Loannis Mihalopoulos, Pappagalos, 18th Street and Laramie; and Steve Agos, Seneca Restaurant, 6544 Cermak Road, Berwyn.
After the presentation, chefs sautéed lamb chops and Greek-style shrimp to be added to a buffet of traditional Greek dishes for those who attended. Standing outside of the Community Center gym where the feast was held, Dominick gave insight to his heritage.
My father was Greek and my mother was German,” he said. “I remember when I was a little kid, my dad and uncles would dance in the basement.”
As for the celebration, Dominick said it’s a Cicero tradition.
“We do all cultures. ... we celebrate the Czechs, the Lithuanians, Italians, we do it all.”