Armenia Fest 2010: Simply Fabulous, Dahling


Co-chairs Corinne Khederian and Edgar Hagopian

By Betty Apigian Kessel

ROYAL OAK, Mich. — I was sitting next to the modest man who has brain stormed many a successful community event along with Co-chair Corinne Khederian, the support of their dedicated committee and The Knights of Vartan saying to him, “I have quizzed several people today to see if they think this festival is now the number one attraction for the Armenian community and after a brief pause each reply was ‘Yes!’ What do you think, Edgar?”

With his ever-present smile, Edgar Hagopian looked at me and said, “we are trying to bring this fractured community together in a celebratory way and to accomplish something for Armenia and Karabagh as well.”

No one in recent years has done more to accomplish that purpose than Edgar Hagopian with deep roots in Bursa, Turkey the birthplace of his immigrant parents. His heart and soul is invested in the well-being of The Republic of Armenia. Edgar and his family run the magnificent showroom, Hagopian World of Rugs in fashionable Birmingham as well as in Novi, Ann Arbor, Utica and Oak Park.

The festival’s site this year was the Royal Oak’s Farmer’s Market in the heart of the jivin’ jumpin’ city known as a fun destination for throngs who fill the city’s eateries every day. Sleepy Royal Oak, a Detroit bedroom community, hasn’t been sleepy since its renaissance 15 years ago.

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The third Armenia Fest had ample space in the huge enclosed pavilion as well as its outside surrounds where the opening ceremonies took place. Hagopian and Khederian welcomed hundreds of seated guests and thanked attending Royal Oak City fathers whose remarks reflected their pride in hosting this mammoth Armenian gathering with open arms, a tribute to our ethnic heritage.

Armenians have established a reputation for proper deportment and behavior and don’t think this doesn’t play an important part when a city decides to allow an undertaking of this size to take place in its environs.

The American and Armenian National Anthems were sung by Rubik Mailian and Vaughn Masropian helped in the introductions, emphasis being on the Armenian word for hello, “parev.”

With the intention of featuring the art, food, music and culture of the Armenians, the Festival 2010 committee pulled it off in Hye fashion. Armenian-sponsored booths lined the pavilion with pastries, ceramics, books, kitchenware and great Armenian cuisine. The queues for kebab dinners were especially long but moved quickly.

The stage hosted live Armenian music that had everyone swaying and clapping to the great rhythm of the Armenian Fest Ensemble consisting of John Tosoian, Kirk Kuchukian, Tom Zakarian, Vaughn Masropian, Harry Hovakimian, Sam Alajajian and Shahan Krikorian. You couldn’t find better musicians putting out traditional Armenian music anywhere. Detroit has always been known for its high caliber of Armenian bands.

Kevin Sands, a remarkable Sinatra sound-alike also pleased the crowd.

Hamazkayin dance troupe
Hamazkayin dance troupe

What brought the house down? If you could witness the terpsichorean artistry of our local Hamazkayin Dance Troupe composed of young Armenian men and women you would weep. They didn’t need the setting sun to shine on them to make them sparkle with their smooth dance routines. They brought joy and pride to your heart. Their smiles were never ceasing. We were witnessing Sepastia, Keghi, Moush and Van right here in Royal Oak. They are our future. This is by no means a small group of dancers, they are more than 30-strong and professional in ability and costume presentation.

The dance troupe’s dance/artistic director is Nayiri Karapetian, who whipped a large group of inexperienced volunteers into a much-sought-after performing group. They are the pride of Detroit.

The Armenia Fest has become a summertime tradition.

As I said to Edgar, “I don’t care if it is held in a mud hut, I will be there to support and enjoy.” Last year’s more than 2,000 attendees must have felt the same way as this year again the attendance soared to new heights.

I saw hundreds of new Armenian faces never before seen by these seasoned eyes. Everyone was happy. They floated from the huge outside tents to the cool of the table and chair lined pavilion. Many non-Armenians filled the crowd and that is vital to spread the word of who Armenians are and what we represent.

Next year? Edgar Hagopian wants to make Armenian Fest bigger and better and has ideas to make it come true. Remember next July and spend it with us in beautiful Michigan and have the Armenian time of your life.

While I have dwelled on Hagopian, let’s give credit to his amazing committee consisting of Corinne Khederian, master video cameraman Hagop Alexanian, Edward Bedikian, Raymond Boujoulian, Pam Coultis, Ken Khezarjian, Paul Kulhanjian, the Armenian Radio Program’s Vaughn Masropian, Shirley Sarkisian, David Terzibashian who is commander of the Nareg-Shavarshan Lodge, Madeline Thomasian, and Gregory Vartanian proudly representing all area Armenian churches.

This year the committee partnered with Armenia Fund, USA to earmark all profits received from advertisers and sponsors to the fund’s Hyebridge Telehealth program, designed to enhance and modernize medical care and education in Armenia and Karabagh.