By Brandon HENSLEY
The Armenian Relief Society hosted the 11th Annual Armenian Festival, which was held on Saturday and Sunday at the Glendale Civic Auditorium.
On the top floor of the auditorium, Armenian dishes were served as music blared over the speakers and children dressed in ethnic clothing danced on stage. Armenian businesses lined the first floor. Some of them were interactive, such as Karoun Dairies, which had a booth where people could make thin bread and grab some cheese and have a meal.
There were displays of Middle Eastern clothing, and a set-up of how a living room in a Middle Eastern house looked like over a century ago, including an iron from the 1800s.
People could also have their picture taken by Maral Keledjian, who works with Touch of Art photography in Glendale. Keledjian, who is Lebanese-Armenian, had a trunk of costumes for kids to try on for their photos. Touch of Art is a family-based business, she said.
“I grew up in a photography family,” she said. “My father was a photographer. My sister has a background in this business.”
She said it was important to take part in the event, “especially because it’s something Armenian that I’m presenting to my people.”
The festival was a fundraiser for the Armenian Relief Society, which is like “The Armenian version of the Red Cross,” said Sossy Poladian, who works for the San Fernando Valley chapter. The society was formed in 1910 and has chapters internationally. In the western U.S., which counts west of the Mississippi, there are 27 chapters.
ARS collects money for multiple causes such as social services, guidance centers for youth and families and scholarships.
“When the [Japanese] tsunami hit, we collected money. It’s a global thing,” said Poladian.
“I think it’s successful,” said Rita Hintlian of the festival. Hintlian is with the Orange County chapter of ARS, called the “Sevan” chapter. “Every year there is some different flair to it … you see multiple generations, the grandkids and the parents and the grandparents. It’s unique. Other programs we have, we might have two generations [come], not three.
“Part of our mission is to keep the culture,” she said. “We don’t take it as ‘keep the old thing.’ But what you renew you breathe new life into something.”
Hintlian said the festival used to be one day, but it’s grown and it can be puzzling on how to build on its success.
“Something that succeeds, it presents a problem. You don’t know how to top it,” she said.
For now, the leaders of ARS are just trying to keep the tradition of past generations.
“We’re trying to follow in their footsteps,” Hintlian said. “That’s all we’re trying to do.”