The “International Folklore Festival” of Lefkada started in 1962 as “International Festival of Folk Dances and Songs in Lefkada”, as an event of the Literature and Art Festivities that had already been organised in Lefkada since 1955. Three countries participated, namely Yugoslavia, Italy and Greece.
Antonis Tzevelekis was the inspirer and creator of the festival. He, as the president of the Associations of Lefkadians in Athens, with the help of the Society of Lefkadian Studies, of the Dance and Literature Club “Orfeas” and other agents of the island, fulfilled his dream to make Lefkada a centre for Literature, Art and Culture.
The festival’s target, up to this day, is to promote peace, friendship and solidarity among the peoples of the world, through the folklore arts of dance and music, and also the traditions and the folk ways of expression and communication. Through the language of imagination and creativity, the peoples of the world meet every August in Lefkada to exchange the products of their cultural and artistic expression, in the way they were evolved through the age-old traditions. Through the different forms of expression, new ways of substantial communication and collaboration are being formed, with absolute respect to the right to difference, beyond cultural, social, economical, religious and other legacies.
The International Folklore Festival of Lefkada is the oldest cultural institution in Greece in the fields of dance and music, of world cultural heritage, with national and international recognition.
The Festival usually takes place within the second fortnight of August (from Sunday to Sunday) beginning with the great parade of peace and friendship, the evening opening ceremony (on the first Sunday) with all the groups performing for a few minutes, continuing with the shows of the dance groups within the week and ending with a grandiose closing ceremony, the gifts trade and the final dance of peace by all groups on the second Sunday.
Hundreds of groups from our island, Greece and all over the world have taken part in the International Folklore Festival of Lefkada.
1962: 1st International Festival of Folk Dances and Songs of Lefkada, with the participation of three countries, namely Yugoslavia, Italy and Greece.
1963: 2nd International Festival of Folk Dances and Songs of Lefkada, the only Greek festival in which groups from the socialist countries participate.
1964: 3rd International Festival of Folk Dances and Songs of Lefkada with Maria Callas singing enthusiastically on the stage the aria from Cavalleria rusticana, accompanied by the then young pianist Kyriakos Sfetsas. Lefkada became a centre of national and international interest.
1965: Antonis Tzevelekis, as president of the Association of Lefkadians of Attica and chairman of the Organising Committee of the Festival, invited 25 dance groups from foreign countries such as Philippines, Uganda, Finland and Portugal.
1966: Antonis Tzevelekis organised the 7th International Conference of Amicale Folklorique Internationale, an international folklore organisation, in Lefkada. From the 20th until the 26th of May, participants and folklore groups from 12 different countries met on the island for the proceedings of the conference that took place under the aegis of the Ministry of the Presidency and the Directorate-General of Press.
1966 -1967: The National Tourist Authority organised the Festival through the local tourist committee.
1970: Giannis Athiniotis became the director of the Festival. He collaborated with the mayor of Coralville in France and president of the International Folklore Association Clement.
1971-1973: Lefkada was by then known as an international centre of artistic folklore events and a home of brotherhood and peace among the peoples.
1974: Due to the tragic events in Cyprus and the general situation in Greece the International Folklore Festival was cancelled.
1975: 12 European countries participated and Antonis Tzevelekis returned as the director of the Festival. The Festival was organised by the Municipality of Lefkada.
1976: 16 dance and music groups participated. The group from Congo of Central Africa was really impressive.
1977: Participants from 9 countries.
1979: The newly founded Cultural Centre of the Municipality of Lefkada organised the Festival with the collaboration of the International Relations Centre of Antonis Tzevelekis until his death in 1989.
1980: The Municipality of Lefkada officially awarded Antonis Tzevelekis with an honorary diploma for his contribution.
1983: Alexis Kostalas presented the programme of the 21st International Folklore Festival for the first time. From then until today he continued being the presenter and characteristic voice of the Festival.
1984: The 22nd International Folklore Festival was held place at the Marka Square instead of the central square of the town.
1989: The 27th International Folklore Festival of Lefkada honoured the memory of its inspirer and pioneer, Antonis Tzevelekis, who had died in that year.
1990s: The International Folklore Festival of Lefkada was held inside the Venetian Castle of Santa Maura, at the entrance of the island, in order to promote the historical monument.
1992: The International Folklore Festival of Lefkada became 30 years old. On the opening day there was a twinning ceremony between the cities of Lefkada and Nahariya, the first twinning that ever took place between a Greek and an Israeli city.
1995: The then president of the Greek Parliament, Apostolos Kaklamanis (himself a Lefkadian), attended the 33rd International Folklore Festival of Lefkada. He praised the institution of the festival and asked for further support for its promotion.
1999: The composer Kyriakos Sfetsas became the art director of the Cultural Centre of the Municipality of Lefkada and was in charge of the Folklore Festival.
2000: The International Folklore Festival returned to the town, at the site of the then newly built Cultural Hall, next to the lagoon.
2001: The International Folklore Festival lost one of its legendary supporters, Thrasyvoulos (Voulis) Vrettos, a close associate of Antonis Tzevelekis. The festival’s success was a given due to the fact that 40000 guests attended it from the parade on the first Sunday until the ending ceremony and 650000 people viewed it on the television because of the live broadcasting of the public television channel, without even counting the vast number of spectators all over the world through the satellite transmission. There were 780 performers (dancers, musicians, singers etc) that participated in 15 foreign groups.
2003 –2010: Vasilis Thermos, who had been for years the general curator and a member of the Cultural Centre, became the director of the festival.
2004: A landmark year for Greece due to the Olympic Games held in Athens. The International Folklore Festival embraces the Olympic ideas of peoples’ brotherhood and world peace. It is a link among nations and their cultures.
2005: The Festival was held under the aegis of the UN and its General Secretary, Kofi Annan.
2012: The Festival celebrated half a century of continuous culture.
The International Folklore Festival together with the Literature and Art Feasts are the biggest cultural events of the year on the island.