It’s one of Metro Detroit’s finest moments, the annual community-wide event called Armenia Fest now in its fifth year, organized and supported by the Armenia Fest Committee and the Knights of Vartan Nareg-Shavarshan Lodge. This year, it took place on Sat. July 14 from 5-10 p.m. at the downtown Royal Oak Farmer’s Market on Eleven Mile Rd. with free parking and admission.
Ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held outdoors, where tents shielded thousands from the late-afternoon sun. The gods of Mt. Ararat produced a perfect day for the crowd, who watched co-chairs David Terzibashian, Corinne Khederian, and Ed Bedikian welcome all with the traditional Armenian greeting, “Parev yev paree yegak.”
Terzibashian greeted compatriots warmly and thanked the City of Royal Oak and its Mayor for again welcoming Armenia Fest to his popular city. He brought to memory Edgar Hagopian, now one-year deceased, whose vision and dream of bringing together the Detroit Armenian community began the festival. Terzibashian said, “God bless you, Edgar.”
Deacon Rubik Mailian sang the American and Armenian National Anthems on a stage flanked by the flags of both countries. Attending dignitaries and politicians were introduced to the audience, but it was the popular and talented Arax Hamazkayin Dance Ensemble they were waiting to see perform. It was worth the wait. The dance troupe is going strong with new members joining as time goes on.
The Arax Troupe has it all perfected with beautiful, colorful costumes for male and female alike. Heavy applause greeted the conclusion of each dance. Then members of the troupe pulled folks from the audience to dance as the Big Band All Stars under the leadership of Vaughn Masropian played on. Smiles were on everyone’s faces. The “Tamzara” had couples stomping and twirling just like in the old days. How fun it was to watch.
Masropian is the festival’s music director, MC, and the director of the Sunday Armenian Radio Program. It was his fine voice you heard on vocals during the evening.
Attorney Marjorie Nanian, who teaches at Schoolcraft College, had this to say: “We are so lucky to have these young Armenian dancers to remind us of our culture.” Nanian knows Armenian history and has lectured extensively on the subject of the genocide at the college.
It still seems strange to those of us who have attended all the festivals to not see our beloved Edgar proudly surveying the throng, approvingly moving from table to table engaging in conversation with one and all. One fact must never be forgotten: It was Edgar Hagopian who tried valiantly to bridge the community, to heal old wounds, and to partially accomplish that with this festival and other events. He remains irreplaceable; some folks are, you know.
The outdoor tents were filled to capacity, and so, too, was the vast cool market building. Families and supporters occupied tables where they filled plates with an array of Armenian food by Gary Reizian’s Uptown Deli. There was the usual lahmajoun, meatballs, cheese boereg, spinach pie, and much more.
In addition to the regular booths selling books, pastry, and specialty popcorn, was an art exhibit featuring different art forms from talented local Armenians organized by Ani Kasparian. The artists were Leda Seyranogly, Levon Kafafian, Rina Movsisyan, and Michael Stamboulian. Kasparian has talent and organizational skills that continue to serve this community well.
What do you say to a group of Armenians who put their hearts and souls into a full year’s planning to bring the focus of the Hye community to Armenians and non-Hyes alike with the capability to get along well and perform their assigned duties to a “T”? You say a big “Thank you!” They are Corinne Khederian, David Terzibashian, Ed Bedikian, Hagop Alexanian, Ara Belian, Ray Boujoulian, Ken Khezarjian, Paul Kulhanjian, Shirley Sarkisian, Madeline Thomasian, and the glue that really holds it altogether, the lovely Pam Coultis. She was the dedicated administrative assistant to Edgar Hagopian. She is still with his company in Birmingham, and has a personality that never stops.
Isabel Kazarian had this to say: “I’m having a great time, loving every minute of it. I’m proud, very proud to be Armenian.”
Armenia Fest is self-supporting but acknowledgement must be given to those individuals and foundations that support the event. They are the Ajemian Foundation, Mark Artinian’s Bosco’s, Debbie and Tom Krikorian, the Jane and Richard Manoogian Foundation, and the Mardigian Foundation.
The impressive ad booklet contained the names of predominately Armenian professionals and businesses. The community is urged to support them for their generosity.
Happily this event was attended by a great many Armenian youth of all ages, but the youngest had to be darling little Sevana Derderian, no more than six weeks old, sitting comfortably in her stroller gazing out at admiring faces as proud parents Armen and Teleen Derderian took congratulations on their first born. Sevana represents the future. The beat goes on.
May those Gods of Ararat be kind to us all so that we can attend the 6th annual Armenia Fest, trying harder to fulfill Edgar Hagopian’s vision of a united metro Detroit Armenian community.