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Capital District Armenian Community Participates in Festival of Nations

Watervliet, NY – The Festival of Nations, one of the areas most anticipated and uniting 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 that it did just that as 22 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 particpate, with the tradition continuing today.  While there were a few years of Armenia’s absence in the event, the community, through the recent efforts of Dn. 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 delicous, homemade paklava by Marianne Topalian. Additionally, Samantha Karian proudly participated in the Miss Festival of Nations contest as Miss Armenia, while young Armenian boys and girls from the Upstate NY, under the direction of choreographer Maria Derian, performed traditional dance routines on stage for a crowd of thousands.

“Nine years ago, I became involved with the Festival of Nations,” said Dn. Rafi, explaining, “It is a very important event within the great Capital District because it indeed unites and creates an environment of celebration and acceptance of all cultures.”

Manoj Ajmera, the Chairman of the Festival of Nations Executive Committee, agrees.  “This event is a forum to showcase different cultures while allowing for commoraderie 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.

To keep culture alive.  For the children to be involved so they can appreciate their heritage.  Showcase culture to other people.  Also is to form a commoraderie between people of different nations around the world to sharei their thinking, values and ideas.  We don’t always agree, but at the end of the day, we support it.  That’s the success of the Festival.  Children of any culture can see a glimpse of the world in a short time.

In regard to the Armenian community, this event also serves to unite the Armenian people as well.  This year. Dn. Rafi 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 contributuion will continue in order for us to represent the Armenian community at the Festival of Nations annually,” shared 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.”

June is when the Festival of Nations organizational committee begins to meet to plan out this monumental late October day that sees thousands of attendees swarm the convention center to celebrate diversity and culture.

“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 various forms of sponsorship or how you can help to ensure Armenia’s participation for decades to come in the Festival of Nations, contact Rafi Topalian by emailing rafitop@aol.com or calling 518-272-2000.

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November 15, 2012