The Armenian Dance Company of Chicago performs at the Milwaukee Armenian Fest.

Milwaukee Armenian Festival a Beacon of Culture and Hospitality

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By David Luhrssen

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Twenty-five years ago, the older members of St. John the Baptist Armenian Church in suburban Milwaukee worried that the parish’s annual summer festival would soon die for lack of young volunteers to do the work. That generation has passed, but younger generations have filled the role of their elders, making the 2022 Milwaukee Armenian Fest the most successful in its long history.

This year, on Sunday, July 17, more than 1,200 people stood in line at the festival for Armenian food and cultural displays, gathered for church tours and to watch performances of music and dance. The festival was held largely under tents on the grounds of St. John, where the audience was entertained by traditional kef time music from Mid-East Beat, an Armenian band based in Racine, Wis. STEPAN, (Fronjian) a one-man band performed contemporary Armenian songs and the Armenian Dance Company of Chicago gave several performances during the afternoon of their dynamic and artful interpretation of folk dances and rhythms.

There were many things to see and do on the church grounds. Arpik Weitzer, whose stained-glass iconography adorns the windows of the church sanctuary and whose mural of the Church of Khor Virab [deep pit] with Mount Ararat in the background covers one wall on the church hall, conducted a painting workshop.

Dr. Charles Hajinian displayed his collection of ancient and medieval Armenian manuscripts, artifacts and coins.

Wine from Armenia and porcelain from the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem were among the items sold at the culture booth.

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Also on hand was a booth for Honey Acres, a Wisconsin-based, Armenian-owned producer of pure honey and chocolate.

St. John held a summer shish-kabob picnic for members, friends and the public for many years before rebranding it in the 1990s as Milwaukee Armenian Fest. Featuring live music and other attractions, the annual event quickly became a popular attraction among non-Armenians in a city that prides itself on hosting a diverse array of ethnic festivals. The festival has grown into a beacon of Armenian culture and hospitality in the Milwaukee area.

 

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