The mayor of Tarpon Springs, Florida, Chris Alahouzos, continues to strengthen his ties with Greece after recently returning from an extensive visit to the country.
Alahouzos’ visit was part of the Sister Cities program, which aims to build meaningful cultural bonds between cities in different countries. Like most of Tarpon Springs natives, Alahouzos is of Greek descent: he is the son of a sponge diver from the Greek island of Kalymnos.
Kalymnos is where the mayor spent the bulk of his trip, hoping to include cities from his home island in his cultural project.
“It’s a program designed to provide an exchange of education, culture and economic development,” Alzahouzos said of Sister Cities. “The exchange of these ideas, education, economic development and culture benefit Tarpon Springs.”
The mayor also met with politicians across Greece, including a conversation with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropouou in which she agreed to come to Tarpon Springs’ annual Epiphany celebration next year.
“You could go to New York, Chicago, or any other city and they don’t have a celebration like Tarpon Springs,” Alahouzos said proudly of his city.
Tarpon Springs signs Sister Cities agreement with Hydra in September
Tarpon Springs previously fostered sister city relationships with a number of Greek cities, most recently Hydra.
The two cities signed a sister city agreement in Hydra in September as a way to mark their historic connections and foster the growth of cultural and economic development between the two.
The agreement was signed in the presence of the US Embassy’s Economic Counselor, Eric Holmgren. A Tweet posted by the Embassy noted “Congrats to Tarpon Springs, Florida and Hydra on signing a new sister cities agreement! Our economic counselor Eric Holmgren joined celebrations commemorating decades of people-to-people ties between the two cities — from sponge diving to advancing exchanges and commerce!”
The mayor of Hydra, George Koukoudakis, stated in his remarks at the ceremony that “Our desire and pursuit from today should be to bring our citizens closer. To create relationships of cooperation, mutual respect, and mutual assistance. But above all, what we need to do is to bequeath the elements of the past that connect us to the new generation.”
The Hydra mayor proposed that the first Sister City initiative should be the organization of a trip for Tarpon Springs students to come to Hydra to attend the traditional sponge custom of the Island as part of its festive Easter celebrations.
Alahouzos related the history of how Greek immigrants started up the sponge business in his city, noting their great contributions to the area at the beginning of the last century.
Tarpon Springs is a hub for Greek-Americans
Tarpon Springs, which is located on the west coast of Florida nearby Tampa, is a major hub for Greek-Americans: it is home to the most Greek people of any American city per capita. The city first attracted Greek sponge divers, who flocked to the area to extract sponges from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, just north of Tampa Bay.
Tarpon Springs is now a popular tourist destination, attracting those who want to soak in the Greek flavor of the city while sampling the Greek foods at local restaurants and taking boat trips out into the Gulf.