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Armenian Fest Raises Relief

Charity, culture highlight 14th annual event.

Ken Hill sees the annual Alexandria Armenian Festival as an opportunity to raise awareness of another culture while raising money for children in Armenia.

He said the festival, now in its 14th year, was formed after a major earthquake devastated Gyumri, the Armenian sister city of Alexandria. Hill, a member of the Alexandria-Gyumri committee, said 19,000 people were killed, and "the city never really has recovered from it." To help children with special needs and the overall youth population, the festival raises funds for small grants to organizations in Gyumri and to the World Bank, which Hill said will match contributions 10-to-1. "Every thousand we put in, they put in 10,000," he said.

The Armenian Festival is scheduled for June 3 from noon-6 p.m. in Market Square (301 King Street). The rain or shine event is free to the public, but the food and crafts on sale benefit Armenian charities.

Food will be the primary fundraiser, according to Hill. He said the festival partners with area Armenian churches to create dishes with a homemade taste. "It's authentic stuff. It's not purchased off the shelf," he said.

Sam Gyulnazarian, a committee member, said labor in making the food is donated, and some particular foods are donated as well.

The festival will feature an array of kabobs, usually around three different kinds. There will also be stuffed grape leaves, lamejun, humus, salads, and several desert options.

Entertainment includes traditional Armenian folk dancers, instrumentals, soloists, and performing arts groups. There will be displays inside of city hall on Armenian culture and on Gyumri.

For additional information, call the Alexandria events hotline at 703-883-4686 or visit www.ci.alexandria.va.us/recreation.