Friday, November 30, 2012

Upstate New York Armenian Community Participates in Festival of Nations

WATERVLIET, N.Y. — The Festival of Nations, one of the areas most anticipated events
of the year, took place in late October at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in
downtown Albany, with a strong presence from the Armenian community.
As clearly stated in their bylaws, “The purpose of the Festival is to create awareness
and appreciation for the cultural heritage of the people from diverse national origins and
to promote unity, understanding and fellowship among the many national and ethnic
groups residing in the Capital District and vicinity.” And it did just that as 23 nations,
including Armenia, were represented in this year’s celebration.
The Festival of Nations, Inc., started 41 years ago. Armenia was one of the first nations
to participate. While there were a few years of Armenia’s absence in the event, the community,
through the recent efforts of Deacon Rafi Topalian who also serves on the
Festival of Nations planning committee, has participated on several levels of the Festival.
This year, Armenia had a food booth selling lahmajoun prepared by Bill Nevins of
CeCe’s catering, and, homemade paklava by Marianne Topalian. Additionally, Samantha
Karian participated in the Miss Festival of Nations contest as Miss Armenia, while young
Armenian boys and girls from the area, under the direction of choreographer Maria
Derian, performed traditional dances on stage for a crowd of thousands.
“Participating in the Festival of Nations was an incredible experience for me, not only
because I was representing the Armenian culture, but because I had the opportunity to
learn about other nations, their cultures and customs,” shared Karian. She added, “The
festival is meant to bring nations of the world together, and that’s just what it did this
year and has done for the past four decades. I am proud that I was able to bring a name
and face to the Armenian community this year, and am honored that I was selected to
represent our beloved nation.”
“Nine years ago, I became involved with the Festival of Nations,” Topalian who rallies
the Armenian community. He further explained, “It is
a very important event within the greater Capital
District because it indeed unites and creates an environment
of celebration and acceptance of all cultures.”
Manoj Ajmera, who has served as the chairman of
the Festival of Nations Executive Committee for the
past 27 years, agrees. “This event is a forum to showcase
different cultures while allowing for camaraderie
between people of different nations,” he said, adding
how beneficial it is to the younger generation as well.
“The Festival of Nations provides children a glimpse of
the world in a short time and allows them to also
appreciate their own heritage and culture,” explained
Ajmera, who is originally from India.
This event also serves to unite the Armenian people
as well. This year, Topalian organized the Capital
District Armenian Cultural Organization, which represents
all Armenian churches and groups in the area,
including St. Peter Armenian Church of Watervliet,
Holy Cross Armenian Church of Troy, the United
Armenian Calvary Congregational Church, and, the
Knights and Daughters of Vartan. “We sincerely hope
that this combined contribution will continue in order
for us to represent the Armenian community at the
Festival of Nations annually,” expressed Topalian.
“This newly-formed organization not only serves to have a united representation during
the event, but is also a great platform and example of how we as Armenians can indeed
come together for the greater good.”
“It is rewarding to be a part of a committee that organizes such an invaluable and
important event for the entire community,” concluded Topalian.
To find out about how you can help to ensure Armenia’s participation in the Festival
of Nations for decades to come, or for sponsorship opportunities, contact Topalian by
emailing rafitop@aol.com.

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