By Jason KUROSU
Glendale’s chapter of the Armenian Relief Society held its 10th annual Armenian Festival at the Glendale Civic Auditorium last weekend, transforming it into an exhibition and celebration of all aspects of Armenian culture. The festival also marked the 100th anniversary of the society as a whole, the humanitarian organization being originally founded in New York City in 1910.
People of all ages filled both levels of the auditorium throughout the two-day festivities that lasted all the way until midnight on Saturday night and started up again at 11 on Sunday morning. The lower level housed a thorough collection of food, artworks, artifacts and more comprising various aspects of Armenian culture. Traditional clothing and musical instruments lay on display along with historical and cultural recreations such as Harutyun Harutyunyan’s handmade models of Armenian farming equipment and Andranik Aghadjanian’s wooden miniature of St. Ejmiadzin Cathedral, which resides in the city of Vagharshapat, Armenia. The smell of kebabs filled the air, leading to long lines of hungry attendees.
Upstairs in the auditorium, people gathered in clusters of seats. At the opening ceremony on Saturday afternoon, a parade of Boy and Girl Scouts could be seen marching towards the stage to the deliberate tempo of a martial drum beat. The Scouts split up their routes to the stage, each group taking one side of the room and one flag, the red, white and blue of the United States and the red, blue and orange of Armenia.
The ceremony continued with this Armenian-American dynamic with the singing of both national anthems and the opening remarks by members of the Armenian Relief Society, delivered in Armenian and then again in English.
“This festival gives us the opportunity to celebrate our traditions and ensures our history and culture will thrive for generations,” said His Eminence Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian. “The Armenian Relief Society revitalizes our national identity and preserves our century old traditions.”
The cultural celebrations continued with a vast lineup of musical performances and a recreation of a traditional Armenian wedding, which was an extravagant musical performance in its own right, complete with a three man band and vigorous dancing.
The Glendale chapter, one of 27 in the Western United States, put together an exhaustive exhibition of the customs and history of the Armenian people. But society members never failed to point out the true aim of the festival: promoting the humanitarian efforts of the society.
“We support schools, clinics, social services,” said ARS chair Kristine Keshishian.
Their literature states as much, noting that the ARS gives scholarships and grants to local students, as well as running their own Saturday schools.
“The ARS is a strong advocate of human rights,” said volunteer Anahid Araxie Ajounian, who is also a former teacher at one of the society’s Saturday schools.
As the wedding celebration began, getting everyone in the room on their feet and clapping, the solidarity of the people was apparent, bringing to life the words of the festival emcee Arshalous Darpinyan.
“It is great to have the liberty of coming together to make Little Armenia today,” said Darpinyan.
For more information on the Armenian Relief Society, visit http://www.arswestusa.org.