More than 500 hundred friends and supporters of the National Hellenic Museum (NHM) from around the country gathered at Chicago’s Radisson Blu Aqua hotel on Saturday, May 31st for the Museum’s annual gala and celebrated Greek Island style.
Guests were welcomed in the spirit of Santorini, as the Radisson’s entrance was overtaken by traditionally bedecked donkeys along with young people dressed in Greek Island costumes. Before dinner, guests mingled in a cocktail reception with Greek-inspired appetizers, traditional music and dancers. Fuchsia orchids transformed the hotel’s ballroom, emanating the feel of bougainvillea in the Aegean, and created a gorgeous room where guests dined and danced the night away.
Emmy Award-winning television anchor Anna Davlantes, was the evening’s Mistress of Ceremonies, while Greek Soprano Anastasia Zannis performed several songs from the islands, including “Boy on a Dolphin” made famous by Sophia Loren.
Two historic Greek American organizations, The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) and the Greek American Restaurant Association (GARA), were honored during the evening for their philanthropic work both in the U.S. and in Greece. AHEPA was founded in early 20th century to fight bigotry and help Greek immigrants adjust in their new home, while GARA has united the Greek restaurant community in order to support institutions that promote Greek heritage and help people in need.
The evening’s highlight was the joint announcement by NHM Chairman, John P. Calamos, Sr., and The Field Museum President, Richard Lariviere, detailing the partnership between the two museums to co-present the United States exhibition of the largest Greek antiquities collection in more than a generation. “The Greeks: From Agamemnon to Alexander the Great” will feature more than 500 pieces and artifacts from 22 Greek museums beginning in November 2015.
Co-chaired by Peter Parthenis, Sr. & William G. Conopeotis, the gala featured an exciting silent auction filled with luxury products by designers of Greek heritage including Bulgari, Lalaounis & Konstantino, destination prizes including stays at luxury hotels in Mykonos, Santorini, and the Peloponnese, as well as a variety of items from outstanding Chicago restaurants, spas, fashion boutiques and many others.
As the NHM’s largest annual fundraiser, the gala generated contributions that will support the Museum’s programs and exhibitions as it carries out its mission as the only national institution dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the Greek American story and the Greek heritage and culture.
Among the 500 attendees were prominent individuals of the greater Chicago community such as John Calamos Sr., National Hellenic Museum Chairman of the Board of Trustees and CEO of Calamos Investments; Richard Lariviere, Field Museum President; Bill Parkinson, Curator for Eurasian Anthropology at the Field Museum; Father Sotiris Malamis; Ioanna Efthymiadou, Consul General of Greece; Anthony Kouzounis, AHEPA Supreme President; Stan Greanias, GARA CEO; Connie Mourtoupalas, President of the National Hellenic Museum; Petros Saganas, Financial Manager of the Greek National Tourism Organization; Chris Tomaras, Chairman of the Pan-Hellenic Scholarship Foundation; Demetrios Logothetis, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Hellenic Academy; Peter Parthenis, NHM Trustee, and William Conopeotis, NHM Trustee, Co-Chairmen of the event; and members of the Board of Trustees of the National Hellenic Museum.