LAS VEGAS—More than 1,200 people gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Armenian Genocide Memorial Monument at Sunset Park which is the largest area park and centrally located in Las Vegas.
Armenian-American Cultural Society of Las Vegas (AACS) is leading this project with the support of all Las Vegas Armenian churches and organizations. The project was initiated in 2006. Since then, AACS Board Members had several meetings with Las Vegas city authorities and Sunset Park was selected as the future location for the Armenian Genocide Memorial Monument.
Clark County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the monument proposal on January 5, 2015. The monument is a gift from AACS and the Nevada Armenian-American community and Clark County Board of Commissioners accepted the monument to be placed at Sunset Park.
The project is estimated to cost $200,000 which will cover the design and construction of the monument in addition to a maintenance agreement reached with Clark County Parks and Recreation Department.
The $200,000 is anticipated to cover all groundbreaking, inauguration, maintenance expenses as well as funds to publish a book regarding the Las Vegas Armenian-American community history leading to the construction of the monument. The book will be authored by UNLV History Department Professor Michelle Tusan.
Mistress of Ceremonies Lenna Hovanessian invited the guests to stand for the flags presentation by Las Vegas Homenetmen Artsakh chapter scouts followed by both the Armenian and USA national anthems sang by Maral Saccoyan. After the emcee’s introduction, the newly appointed Honorary Consul of Republic of Armenia in Las Vegas, Adroushan Andy Armenian delivered the keynote speech. Armenian provided a brief history of the Las Vegas Armenian community going back to 1911, when the first Armenian family settled in the area. Armenian also referred to the State of Nevada saving the lives of tens of thousands of Armenian orphans by donating in 1919 over $100,000 to the Near East Relief Fund as part of fundraising efforts that was taking place across USA during that period.
Armenian concluded his remarks by thanking America and thanking the State of Nevada for providing the Armenian-American community an opportunity for new beginnings in fabulous Las Vegas. The monument at Sunset Park will be a gift from the Armenian-American community in Las Vegas to the people of Southern Nevada so that new generations remember the tragic history in order not to repeat such terrible deeds in the future.
Armen Anooshian provided the latest update regarding the monument fundraising progress stating that all building department approvals are in place and that $122,000 in donations have already been raised. We estimate construction to start in July with completion by end of September 2015. Anooshian shared the podium with AACS veteran Board members Hriyr Dadaian, Arpiar Babikian and Garry Deratzou who all emotionally expressed their appreciation of this landmark event.
Hovanessian invited official guests who took the podium and expressed their support for the construction of the Armenian Genocide Memorial Monument at Sunset Park while condemning the Armenian Genocide and urging President Obama to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. Among the speakers who presented proclamations were US Senator Dean Heller, US Congresswoman Dina Titus, US Congressman Cresent Hardy, Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commissioner Mary Beth Scow, City of Las Vegas Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian and Councilman Stavros Anthony. Also Present was Nevada GOP Chair Michael McDonald and representatives of Nevada Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison, Senator Harry Reid and Congressman Joe Heck.
As a guest speaker, Deputy Consul General, Valery Mkrtumian from the Consulate General of Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles, on behalf of the Republic of Armenia greeted the official guests and members of the Las Vegas Armenian-American community. Mkrtumian expressed his appreciation for State of Nevada’s official recognition of the Armenian Genocide as well as Nevada Legislators who on April 14, 2015 adopted proclamations at the State capitol, Carson City, in both the State Assembly and State Senate.
After the official remarks community members gathered at the future monument site for the groundbreaking service lead by the clergy. Archpriest Fr. Nareg Matarian, Archpriest Fr. Avedis Torossian, Fr. Arsen Kassabian, Pastor Sam Agulian, Pastor Nerses Kopalyan, Father Nadim Abou Zeid from the Lebanese Maronite St. Sharbel church as well Pastors from the Ethiopian and Assyrian churches participated in ground blessing prayer service.
The ceremonial first turning of the earth took place with the participation of Senator Dean Heller, Congressman Cresent Hardy, Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commissioner Mary Bath Scow, City of Las Vegas Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, City of Las Vegas Councilman Stavros Anthony, Honorary Consul of Republic of Armenia in Las Vegas Andy Armenian and AACS President Levon Gulbenkian.
Reverend Fathers, followed by representatives of all local Armenian-American organizations, major donors and past and present AACS Board members took their turn for ceremonial turning of the earth.
A cultural program followed where dancers from Armenian Dance Academy of Las Vegas performed several dances followed by recitation, songs and dances performed by ARS Shoushi Chapter Saturday School students.
At the conclusion of the program, Emcee Lenna Hovanessian thanked the Centennial Commemoration Organizing Committee members and recognized the efforts of the committee chairman Abe Kassamanian for his hard work. Hovanessian also thanked Clark County Parks & Recreation Department management, staff and the park police for their valuable support.
A large number of community members then headed to Las Vegas Boulevard where a caravan of “Billboard Trucks” drove along the Strip all night long raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide Centennial to tens of thousands of tourists on Las Vegas Boulevard.
AACS is the first Armenian-American organization established in Nevada, founded in 1978 and incorporated in 1981 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. AACS actively supports issues and concerns of the Armenian-American community in Nevada with a mission of preserving the history, culture and traditions of the Armenian people.