America’s Greeks rock it Myconos-style in Florida

It’s the final countdown to the big, sold-out Memorial Day Weekend Beach Party in Florida, and ticket-holders are getting excited. “Come dance with us,” said Deano Kastis, the event’s 32-year-old organizer, in perfect Greek.

Speaking on the phone while on his way to his Miami office, I could just picture him driving on some beachfront road, looking carefree and flashing one of those big white smiles so prevalent in cosmopolitan American resort cities.

The discussion centered on the annual party organized by United Greek Americans (UGA) – an organization founded by Kastis – taking place on Florida’s Clearwater Beach through Monday, during the Memorial Day weekend. Over 1,000 Greek Americans are expected to attend the “incredible Myconos-style party, with bouzoukia, on American soil,” noted Kastis. Put together by UGA, it will be the fifth consecutive party of its kind, an event which began by chance and went on to become the Greek-American community’s biggest US party.

“I have been involved in Florida’s nightclub scene since I started living here. At one point there was a big dancing event and a few Greek friends turned up and said, ‘Imagine if everyone here were Greek.’ That’s how I got the idea, that was the spark,” said Kastis. For a guy who was born and raised in the US, Kastis’s command of the Greek language is impressive. His grandfather left his hometown of Kozani, northern Greece, at the age of 20, back in the early 1950s. Kastis grew up in New York but has been living in Miami ever since, having fallen under the spell of the city’s sandy beaches.

“I started looking for a location for this kind of big party for Greek Americans and found this really beautiful beach, Clearwater, which has a lot of hotels,” he said.

An ideal location indeed, Clearwater is near Tarpon Springs, the area with the highest proportion of Greek Americans in the country. When 100 people turned up the first time, the event was deemed highly successful, and the following year Greeks from all over North America flocked to Florida. “A lot of it was through word of mouth, but also social media, and now we get Greeks from Canada and even London,” added Kastis.

This year, native Greeks from Athens and Crete are also traveling to the US for the “Myconos in Miami” experience. Due to particularly high participation, a second hotel has been reserved for partygoers by the organization.

“We can’t wait. Memorial Day is a major celebration here and the public holiday which kicks off the summer season. While Easter is more of a family affair, the May holiday is the first time people can go out and have some fun,” noted Kastis. As far as he is concerned, the party is an opportunity for Greeks to connect with each other. “We Greeks lose touch here. Many were born here but their dads may have married Americans and as a result gradually slowly lost their Greekness, their Hellenism,” he said.

Given the annual party’s growing momentum, UGA is also launching a scholarship program aimed at Greek-American students this year. Those interested in applying need to write an essay on the influence of Greek culture (for more information go to

Festivities begin on Thursday with a Sunset Welcome Party on the beach, while the party’s official launch takes place on Friday, featuring DJs from across the US mixing popular American and Greek hits. A “White Party” attended by guests dressed in white and complemented by a prom-style king and queen election is scheduled for Saturday, while the weekend will end with a live bouzouki performance featuring Philadelphia’s Seizmos band on Sunday.

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