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A celebration of freedom

Festival at Glendale park honors the 17th year since Armenia split from the Soviet Union.

September 24, 2008|By Alison Tully

Siran Kazanchyan and her two granddaughters laid out a plaid blanket Sunday on the lawn of Verdugo Park in Glendale to celebrate a historical cultural milestone —the 17th anniversary of Armenian independence.

“The event is a great way to teach my granddaughters about Armenian culture,” Kazanchyan said. “Even though they were born here, I always try to help them learn about our history. Every time they come over to my house, we only speak Armenian.”

Kazanchyan was one of an expected 5,000 people who filled Verdugo Park to take part in the 10th Annual Armenian Independence Day Festival.

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The Non Serount, or New Generation, Cultural Assn. organized the event in 1998 to honor Armenia’s freedom, Chairman Harut Der-Tavitian said.

“We decided that our independence is a major event, just as it is in any culture, and that it is about time that we started something to celebrate it, even if it was seven years later,” Der-Tavitian said. “We expected to only get around 1,000 people, but from day one, we’ve had 5 to 6,000 every year. The success really shows that if you build a venue for people for a great cause, people will come.”

Booths filled with local Armenian business owners and organizations lined the park such as the Christmas Fund for Armenian Orphans and Disabled Children and the Restoration of Children’s Homes. The organization, which started in 1999, raises money to renovate housing for orphans and disabled children in Armenia.

“We just opened a three-story home that houses 250 children in Armenia, and we are now raising money to build them an auditorium so they can sing, dance and perform,” advisor Mesrop Topalian said. “So many homes need repair, so one by one we are trying to get it done . . .We hope to raise at least $1,000 today toward our effort.”

The Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry also educated people about the importance of donating blood for their fellow Armenian citizens.

“We were started at the beginning of the century by a mother who couldn’t find a match for her child that had leukemia,” said Karine Khudikian, a medical/ laboratory scientist for the organization. “She realized a great need to form a registry and now we have over 15,000 people.”

Visitors also feasted on delicacies such as kebabs and listened to various performers such as Armenian musical pioneer Levon Katerjian. Special guests such as Glendale Mayor John Drayman and Councilman Bob Yousefian also stopped by to participate in the festivities.

“It is a great event because it ties people together, and I hope it helps non-Armenians understand and learn about their neighbors,” resident John Krikourian said.


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