Armenia’s Gather to Celebrate Independence Day

–Over 7000 attend festival in Little Armenia

LOS ANGELES (Glendale New Press/Armenian Youth Federation)–In a sign of their growing political clout–thousands of Armenia’s and Armenian Americans were joined Sunday by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for a street fair to celebrate Armenia’s first independence day on May 28–1918.

The fair–held in the Little Armenia’section of Hollywood along Hollywood Boulevard between Vermont and Alexandria avenues–featured 45 vendor booths selling everything from shish kebabs and lavash bread–to Armenian arts and crafts and portraits featuring traditional Armenian costumes.

More than 7,000 people turned out for the event–organized by the Armenian Cultural Foundation (ACF) in cooperation with the Armenian Youth Federation-Western Region (AYF-WR). The festival was cosponsored by Los Angeles Council President Eric Garcetti–whose Council District 13 encompasses Little Armenia.

It was the first time the event was held in Little Armenia–said Bo Patatian–media liaison for the Armenian Youth Federation.

"We wanted to have it in a central place–and since 65% of the residents in this area are Armenian–there is no better place for this event to fit in," Patatian said–adding that previous Armenian Independence Day festivals have been held at Glendale High School and in Pasadena.

Armenia’s are blessed with two independence days–Patatian said. The first–in 1918–marks the date on which the Armenian National Council declared the country’s independence from Ottoman Turkey and the old Russian Empire. That first Armenian republic–however–was short-lived; in 1920–the country was absorbed into the former Soviet Union.

"The real independence day is September 21–1991," Patatian said–referring to when the modern Armenian state was born after the collapse of the Soviet Union. "But this first date still has a very important emotional connection to our people."

Among those celebrating Independence Day in Little Armenia Sunday was Glendale Unified School District Board member Greg Krikorian.

"This is the day on which Armenia’s first claimed independence–after surviving the genocide and stopping the Turkish armies," said Krikorian–who was also joined at the fair by Burbank Unified School District Board member and 43rd Assembly District candidate Paul Krekorian. "Being here today with so many different families–friends and neighbors is an emotionally moving time–a time to be thankful for what we have here in this country–to be thankful for our families–a chance to get together and enjoy life."

The highlight of the festival was a special visit by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Mayor Villaraigosa congratulated the Armenian nation on its first independence and thanked the Armenian community for their contributions to the City of Los Angeles. Following his remarks–the Mayor joined the crowd to participate in the traditional Armenian "shoorch bar" dances and sample traditional Armenian cuisine.

"This is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate not just the independence–but the fact that Armenia’s play such an important role here in Los Angeles–being part of the largest Armenian population outside of Armenia," said Villaraigosa–whose city officially declared the Hollywood neighborhood Little Armenia in 2000. "We appreciate all the contributions they have made and continue to make to our city."

Other guests at the event included Kevin DeLeon–candidate for California’s 45th State Assembly District–and Ed Ebrahimian–General Manager for LA’s Bureau of Street Lighting. A representative from the Consulate of Armenia in Los Angeles was also present to join the celebration. Speakers that day included Vicken Sossikian from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and Haroutioun Gojoayan from the Armenian Diplomatic Corps.

The event was organized to celebrate Armenia’s first independence day. After 600 years of Ottoman Turkish oppression–Armenia became independent on May 28–1918. The republic established on this date set the foundation for today’s independent republic.

It is important for the Armenian community to remember the significance of May 28th. On this day–we not only celebrate the independence of Armenia–but also 3000 years of history and culture. We are grateful to the City of Los Angeles for allowing us to celebrate this occasion on the streets of Little Armenia"–said Nora Ounjian–event coordinator.

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