Vartavar Celebration in Little Neck Aims at Greater Goals


By Aram Arkun

Mirror-Spectator Staff

LITTLE NECK, N.Y. — A celebration of Vartavar took place at the Armenian Society center in Little Neck on Sunday, July 11 which was attended by some 135 adults and 35 children. Though primarily organized for the enjoyment of children — various games with water, including wading pools, were arranged in the yard of the center — there were plenty of activities for adults too. They were able to enjoy shish kebab and other delicacies, and listen or dance to Armenian music performed by Nshan Kiramidzhyan. Dedicated soccer fans could watch the World Cup on a giant television screen indoors.

Armenian families from Long Island, Queens,and other parts of New York City and New Jersey participated, along with a few from further away, and some non-Armenian friends or spouses. They were from all types of backgrounds, born in countries such as the US, Iran, Armenia, Bulgaria and Turkey. There were even two clerics present, one from the Prelacy and another from the Diocese.

This was probably the only organized secular celebration of Vartavar in the New York area. The goal of the event, organizer Lana Kazangian declared, was “to celebrate Armenian traditions.” Furthermore, “we bring a new community of people to the Armenian Society. The building and society needs to be kept so that my own children and the coming generations will be able to benefit from it as an active center. These activities keep people interested in this place. The most important thing is to attract new families to join the Armenian Society.” This celebration is part of a broader “Playdate” program of children’s activities for Armenians in the New York metropolitan area organized and sponsored by the Kazangian family.

These efforts spring in part from a family misfortune, as Lana Kazangian explained: “My mother used to volunteer with the Society when she first came to the US back in the 1960s. She organized children’s programs. When my mother, Aida Kazangian, became ill and passed away, three years ago this August, we decided to organize some children’s activities ourselves. This is part of the healing process for me and my sister. It was a good way for us personally and for the Society too.”

Lana and her sister Elina Kazan Rutan, started out by organizing a collective Armenian children’s play date with toys and pizza in June 2008. Then, they transformed the annual summer picnic of the Armenian Society by including a celebration of the water festival of Vartavar oriented towards children. Over the next two years, they organized children’s Halloween parties, and aided the Society’s Ladies Auxiliary in the organization of the annual Armenian Christmas party. Although they are not going to have a Halloween party this year in order to avoid competition with the children’s party that Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School in Bayside is organizing, they will continue to host an Armenian Christmas party in early January. Lana and Elina’s father, Albert Kazangian, supports these events financially along with his daughters, and at the Vartavar celebration sponsored the music in memory of his wife. The two sisters contribute financially to the events they organize, and even their daughters help out in various ways.

Gourgen Grigorian, chairman and treasurer of the board of trustees of the Armenian Society, and Rubik Babaian, vice chairman, exclaimed that as their goal was to bring together Armenian children and youth, they were extremely happy with the event. Babaian declared, “We want this beautiful building to be used, and people to take it over and make it work for new generations of Armenians.” Grigorian added that “we don’t belong to any political party or group, but just want to work with all Armenians.”

The building has a kitchen, classrooms and halls. The Haruthunian, Acopian and Galstian Halls are available for community events, as well as weddings, children’s birthday parties and other family celebrations for as many as 150 to 200 people. The proceeds from such events are used to pay off the mortgage for the center.

The Armenian Society at present has approximately 170 members at present, mostly from the Queens area. There is a board of trustees and a directing board, each with nine members.

Its ongoing successful activities include weekly Friday night shish kebab dinners that are occasions for families and friends to meet socially, New Year’s Eve parties with around 200 people, various holiday events, concerts, lectures, dances and trips to Atlantic City.

Among other new efforts to attract the youth, the Armenian Society is sponsoring the formation of a soccer training group called Hye Soccer Academy for children aged 6 to 15 with experienced coaches.

The Armenian Society was founded in 1948 as the Iranian-Armenian Society of New York, and eventually bought a building in Jackson Heights, Queens. It constructed the present center in Little Neck in 1992. While the board of trustees consists of Iranian-Armenians living in the New York region, members of any background are eligible to serve on the board of directors or executive board, which is the body that organizes the Society’s activities. The latter board today is chaired by Rita Tatevossian with Shahen Minassian as vice-chair. The Armenian Society has a long history of organizing social and cultural events, and used to sponsor a choir conducted by Raffi Svadjian.

The Society is seeking more volunteers for the Playdate series, as well as in organizing other types of events. Since most parents already have most of their schedules occupied with the needs of their own children, non-parents who enjoy children are welcome as volunteers for the Playdate activities. They want to expand the range of activities available, and have other types of events for older children.

For more information about the Playdate series of children’s events, and other activities of the Armenian Society, contact Lana Kazangian at [email protected]