Festival brings Armenian culture, food

The Armenian Food Festival held its 9th annual celebration Saturday at the Fresno Armenian Home.

The festival, which went from 10 a.m. to midnight, started out as a family gathering among Armenians in the Fresno community but has grown to a one-day festival open to the public.

Bedros Khederian, the organizer of the festival, said it is not just for Armenians but open to anyone who wants a taste of the Armenian culture.

“We invite everyone so they can come and enjoy themselves and have fun,” Khederian said.

Khederian said the purpose of the event is not only to get the public involved but to also continue the tradition of their country and to pass it on to the new generation and to educate them on what it represents.

“We are continuing it for as long as we can,” Khederian said. “I don’t know how long I will live so I like to do it as much as I can and if I can pass it on to the younger generation so that they continue it, I will be able to rest in peace.”

Khederian said he loves the atmosphere of the festival, the people that come from all over the world to participate and the molasses, also known as Prpoor.

The bubbling grape molasses, Prpoor, which brews from grapes on the last day of harvest, is made during an 800-year-old traditional Armenian harvest festival similar to Thanksgiving.

“My favorite thing is to make the molasses because I remember when I was five or six- years-old that we used to do that,” Khederian said. “We would start on Monday morning and finish it maybe Friday or Saturday. We used to wait for that and even though we started over in Armenia, we want to continue it here.”

The festival attracted nearly 1,000 people, many of which came on buses from all over such as Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and Canada.

They gathered together to enjoy authentic Armenian food, which consisted of grape leaves, baklava, shish kabob and sandwiches.

Richard Hagopian, along with his band and Armenian sensation Andrey Hovnanian, also known as André, delivered the musical performances. An open area was also designated for dancing and bounce houses on the grass for kids.

Meher Chekerdemian, a former Fresno State professor who also helped manage the funds at the festival, said he encourages everyone, especially those in the Fresno community, to come out and get to know a little bit about the Armenian way of life.

“If you like Armenian food and Armenian people then you should come and hear the music and enjoy the good Armenian food,” Chekerdemian said.

Chekerdemian, who has been to all nine of the festivals, said he is glad that the event is becoming more popular and hopes that it continues to grow each year.

“We appreciate the help and the recognition and we are very proud of it and we want to keep it going,” Chekerdemian said. “We will continue doing this as long as the young kids take over.”

Sarkis Barbarian, a former Fresno State student who now owns a mechanic shop in Fresno, works at the event every year as a bartender and loves meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends.

“I like how it brings all the Armenians together,” Barbarian said. “It’s a good environment with good food, good music and nice weather.”

Sevag Sanikian, a freshman biology major, who works at one of the food booths at the festival said he enjoys seeing everyone happy and having a good time.

“I like that you get to see a bunch of family and friends come together from all around the Armenian community,” Sanikian said. “I would recommend this to the public and to anyone that has Armenian heritage in them or who wants to come learn and be a part of the culture.”

Rosie Terpogosyian, a pre-nursing student, has attended the festivals ever since she can remember and always looks forward to it every year.

“I am Armenian and I’ve been coming here since I was little so it is like a tradition,” Terpogosyian said.

Grigor Kyutunyan, a Fresno State alumnus, said the festival is a great place to have fun, meet new people and have a good time with family.

“I’ve always been here, we have been here every year to enjoy the food, music and just chatting and having a good time,” Kyutunyan said.

Kyutunyan said the festival is a tradition and it is up to young Armenians like him to keep it alive.

“You feel it is a part of you,” Kyutunyan said. “The culture, the people, the history, it keeps you alive.”

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