By Mary O’KEEFE
Crescenta Valley was able to do something last weekend that several countries in the world have not been able to achieve – cultural unity and true respect for diversity.
The first Korean Armenian Festival was held on Saturday and Sunday at Crescenta Valley Park. It was a unifying sight with rows of white tents covering the park. Each tent sponsored a business or organization that celebrated working with others.
The entertainment ranged from traditional Korean drum performers to a reenactment of an Armenian wedding. It was impressive to see at one point Armenian dancers who traced their heritage back thousands of years, and then to have everyone dance along with young girls performing to Korean pop music.
The festival suffered the first day from high temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. People waited to show up toward evening, after a slight cooling trend. On Sunday, the crowds were better as the temperature dropped.
“[Saturday] was an unbelievably hot day,” said Arick Gevorkian, community leader and one of the festival’s organizers. “But everyone truly showed their partnership and collaboration.”
To visitors, the festival looked as if it was the most natural of events, but before this weekend the thought of Korean and Armenian cultures blending was not an obvious partnership.
“When people asked me why these two [cultures] would get together, I said, ‘Why not?’” Gevorkian said.
He added the two groups began talking about a unifying festival about a year and a half ago through the leadership of Crescenta Valley Town Council members Harry Leon and Dr. Young Suh.
They reached out to James Pak and Gevorkian, both leaders in the community, and the planning began.
“We began planning this event in late February,” Gevorkian said.
What they found during the organizing process was the two groups had more in common than they thought.
“We came here for a better life, we want to preserve our culture, we have [strong beliefs] in our religion and we want a higher education for our family,” he said. “And we are all Americans.”
The merging of the two groups for this event was not always easy. There were compromises that were made by both sides, but the foundation of community kept the two groups acting as one.
“It was a great collaboration,” Gevorkian said.
There were over 45 volunteers that helped the day of the event. Tents were lifted and the stage was built and of course there was food.
Korean barbeque and Armenian shish-kabob were the highlights of the event, and to end the meals were plenty of pastries and sweets including a cake that celebrated the festival made by Déjà Vu Cakes.
Gevorkian added the event would not have been possible without the help and support of the community and governing officials, several of which brought certificates in recognition to the event.
California State Senator Carol Liu and representatives from Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich and Assemblymember Mike Gatto were there to recognize and applaud the communities’ efforts. Others showed their support as well including the L.A. Sheriff’s Dept., L.A. County Parks and Recreation, members of the Glendale Unified School District school board and Glendale councilmembers Laura Friedman and Ara Najarian.
But it was the Crescenta Valley Town Council Gevorkian wanted to single out. Not only was it the two councilmembers that inspired the event but president Cheryl Davis and members of the council were at the festival the entire time to show support.
“They didn’t just talk about it,” Gevorkian said during the festival. “They showed up.”
The Korean-American Federation of North Los Angeles and the Armenian Community and Youth Center were the two organi-zations that worked together to arrange the volunteers and make certain the event was flawless.
Event planners are looking toward next year and the next event and to expand it to include other cultures.
“Next year we will invite Hispanic organizations, Irish … everyone that makes up Crescenta Valley,” Gevorkian said.