Shushi Dance Ensemble performing

Armenian Festival of Alexandria, VA, Is Back: Video Report


ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Last weekend, in the center of Alexandria, a line of citizens stretched from a food-vendor location to the intersection of N. Royal Street and King Street, and turning left extended further down on the sidewalk. Somewhat similar to Black Friday’s lines, the uncommonly long queue of citizens was set to purchase Armenian barbeque, zhengyalov hatz bread-rolls, lahmajoon and lavash.


The Armenian festival of Alexandria was back at the Market Square on October 23 and 24, drawing unexpectedly great excitement from both Armenians as well as non-Armenians.

“Nearly 1,500 visitors purchased Armenian food in two days,” said Marianna Agekyan, the organizer of the event with her committee, after checking the transaction records, adding, “Roughly between three to four thousand people came to the festival in two days.”

In 1990, on the coincidence that Armenia’s city of Gyumri was called Aleksandropol in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Gyumri and Virginia’s Alexandria became twin towns. Ever since, annual Armenian festivals on Alexandria’s main square took place, organized by the parish councils of the two Armenian churches of the area, Soorp Khach and St. Mary, and the Knights of Vartan. until 2013. This year it was revived.

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Marianna says that she began working in 2019 in order to make the event possible, but COVID caused delays. Last weekend, along the duration of the festival, cultural activities, songs, dances were performed on the stage of the square, and the food vendor was on the street side, where Armenian souvenirs, artifacts and traditional dresses were also sold. Non-Armenian sellers were invited too.

“Most of the products were prepared by our community people or made in Armenia, but also we have had several American vendors selling staff. Occasionally, I was noticing that there were more non-Armenian than Armenians present,” Marianna said.

Paula Thallas was one of them. She is of Greek-American heritage, but calls the Armenian community of Washington, D.C. her “second family.” “This is my second Armenian festival. This year, I also attended the one organized by the Armenian church. Everyone here is so nice and sweet.  I love the people and the food,” she said.

A French-American lady, originally from Marseille, knew Armenians from her hometown. She came to get some Armenian pastry. “You should do this more often,” the lady said when we talked standing near one of the vendors.

Among the participants was the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA), promoting the Terjenian-Thomas Internship Program in Washington, D.C., and in Armenia.

“We thank the organizers of the festival for reintroducing the tradition of showcasing Armenian culture and heritage in the Sister City of Gyumri, Alexandria, Virginia,” said AAA’s Congressional Relations Director, Mariam Khaloyan. “It was great to see students and parents ask about the internship program and ways they are able to be advocate and be active on strengthening US-Armenia relations,” she added.

The Shushi Armenian Dance Ensemble, under the direction of Seta Kantardjian, came from New York to perform in traditional Armenian costumes; the renowned song Karoon-Yerevan based on Aram Khachaturian’s music was staged. Rapper Marc 2Ray of Armenian, Greek and French heritage sang 1915, Music over Money, Fresh Air and other songs accompanied by DC area singer Allison Balanc and DJ Q. Folk singers Kevork Artinian and Gevorg Chakmanyan also performed.

Left to right, David and Leda Zenian, Seta Kantardjian, Kevork and Vartiter Marashlian at the festival

“We wanted to introduce our culture, our music, food, products to residents. Seeing this huge turnout, I think we succeeded. I will work on organizing a festival next year as well,” Marianna concluded.

The following video provides segments of the festival, musical performances and interviews.

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