On Memorial Day Weekend, Clearwater, Florida was full of Greek flags, frappe-drinking vacationers, and Greek music echoing across the beautiful, warm beaches…and this was just the beginning. Later the frappe was replaced with ouzo and the relaxed daytime setting gave way to the biggest ‘bouzoukia’ event the US has ever experienced…
So what was happening?
The 5th Annual United Greek Americans Party was under way!
Greek-Americans from every city and walk of life, whether they moved here just a few years ago from Greece or are the third generation children of immigrants, came together to celebrate the culture we all have in common.
And what better way to do that than with drinks, music and dancing?
If you haven’t heard of the UGA party yet, it started as a small gathering of Greek friends organized by Deano Kastis 5 years ago, and has since turned into the biggest such celebration in the whole country; now, it has become a weekend Greek-Americans must mark off on their calendars every year!
For those of you who need more convincing, you can read the opinion of guests like Nicole Ossey, who has been a number one fan of the party since its first year:
“It is amazing to see how the #UGAfam has grown from the first year I attended in 2011 until now. I am beyond fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet wonderful people from across the country who share the same culture, values, fun spirit and readiness for adventure as I do. From soaking up the sun at the pool during the day to the sounds of Seizmos at the bouzoukia at night to the late night beach party until sunrise, this is an event I will cherish forever.”
Soaking up sun and dancing the night away to bouzoukia sounds like a pretty incredible weekend to us.
This isn’t just a plain old beach party though; attendees got the ultimate VIP treatment as the United Greek-Americans organizers also booked out two hotels and flew in DJs from around the US to play the best dance hits from both Greece and the US.
Putting aside all the fun times and glamour for the moment, the most important part of the party was, and always will remain, the people. After all, this is a party about celebration, shared bonds, and connection.
As Stefanie Karangelen (another guest) told us, the best part of the get-together for her was meeting “Greek Americans from all over the US even as far as New Mexico and Cali….by the end of the weekend, [she] went home to Virginia with new best friends. Celebrating our culture and heritage with traditional Greek dances, food and drinks, brings us all together in an unexplainable way.”
The friendships forged at the UGA party often become lifetime bonds. Stefanie told us that she’s “meeting up with new friends from NM in early July! One weekend was simply not enough! Thank goodness we have the UGA Labor Day party to look foward to!”
That’s right, in case you missed the first go-around for the UGA party this year, there is a second event later on in the year, a Labor Day party in Chicago!
So when summer is starting to fade, the days start getting a little shorter and the nights a little chillier, don’t you want to be part of one huge, final, Greek-island style blast of a party to send off the warmer months?
That’s definitely the way many party guests are thinking. With Hotel Chicago (The Official Weekend Party Hotel) nearly sold-out, UGA is expecting another record-breaking attendance. After returning home from the UGA Memorial Day Party, Peter Tsevdos had the following to say about the event – “The best one yet – It was an experience that will forever be remembered. Deano does an outstanding job and is truly a role model for the younger generation in the Greek community. See you in Chicago!#UgaChi15!”