One of the highlights of the cultural calendar of Dallas is the annual ArmeniaFest. It is a celebration of colors, food, dance, music, spirituality, and rich history of one of the oldest nations of the world. The Armenian desk of The Dallas Telegraph newspaper has covered the event for several consecutive years now. We decided to call the St. Sarkis Armenian Church of Dallas to learn more about this year’s attractions. Here is the talented singer of the Church choir and the historian of the community, Mary Mukhtarian, answering the questions about ArmeniaFest 2016.
— Mary, this coming 21st ArmeniaFest of Dallas is to the degree a landmark in the history of Armenian Cultural and Food Festivals. 21 years is a time when a young person becomes an adult. What are the achievements of the Festival in this long history? How did the tradition of ArmeniaFest get started in Dallas?
— We have been so proud of having established the ArmeniaFest. We used to take part in the International Festival of Dallas, until one of our parishioners, Boghos Kirazian, decided that we should take the talent of our whole community and start our own ArmeniaFest.
We started very modestly. Initially, there were few tables and certain activities, and the lines were not as long as we have right now. We did not have as many prizes or games as we do now, but the food was exceptionally good, and the dancers were excellent. Over time we ended up actually adding more activities every year to it until it became this fantastic ArmeniaFest to which many people come. They actually put the Festival on their calendars from year to year.
Some of the people who are dancing today were not even born and those who were dancing in the beginning now have graduated from college and are working. They have their own children, and some of the children are coming now to dance. It is such a pleasure for all of us to go to the ArmeniaFest to touch base with everyone, enjoy the dances, enjoy the food, enjoy all the activities, while showcasing our faith, the Armenian culture, the Armenian history and, of course, the Armenian food.
— Last year at the Festival you had a big surprise for the guests. It was a photo booth, managed by our good friend and business partner Mikael Mikaelyan of Valley View Dental Clinic. Tell us about of the success of the booth.
— Over the years, the ArmeniaFest committee tries to come up with something new to excite all of our community as well as guests who have been coming over the years to the ArmeniaFest. In 2015, the 20th Anniversary was unique because we added something called the photo booth. The photo booth was an opportunity for people to come and dress in traditional Armenian outfits, and then have their picture taken, looking exactly like their relatives looked a hundred years ago. It was so popular because it combined not only the opportunity for having your photo taken, but tied it to the history of the Armenians because of the clothes that were worn. We are truly grateful to Mikael Mikaelyan for doing that for us because it is an additional income for ArmeniaFest, and it was a lot of fun for the community and all the guests who came.
— Do you have something new in the program this year?
— This year, again, just like we try to do every single year, the new thing that has been added is a Fashion Show. This includes historical outfits that the Armenians used to wear. Every single Armenian village used to have its own designs, its own colors, and its own way of displaying its fashionable clothes. So, some of the clothes that you will see at the Fashion Show actually can be identified with a particular village or region, and the period from which they came. This year we want to present the rich creative designs and specific Armenian colors included in the Fashion Show. The Fashion Show will be lots of fun to many of our members, since some will be actually dressed in these outfits and walking around to show the superior fashion sense of the Armenians in the last couple of centuries.
By Ludmila Khachkar
Photo by Serge Taran