WASHINGTON — The Armenian community of Greater Washington and Baltimore rang in the New Year at the festively decorated ballroom of Hilton Hotel in Gaithersburg, Md. For the second time, the Armenian Community Events Planners (ACEP) organized this year’s sold-out event. More than 350 revelers gathered to welcome the New Year and celebrate the unity that brought everyone together.
The evening began with brief remarks by Dr. Teny Abrahamian, ACEP’s chair, thanking supporters and introducing the members of the committee who had worked side by side for a whole year. Rev. Hovsep Karapetyan of St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church and Rev. Sarkis Aktavoukian of Soorp Khatch Armenian Apostolic Church offered their prayers and good wishes for the New Year and Soorp Dznount.
After dinner, the evening began with Gagik Badalyan and his band taking the stage and helping the crowd to dance to Armenian songs, with the clarinet highlighting most of the songs. The appearance of Artur Hakobyan (formerly known as Mister X) was a double treat, whose repertoire of international songs ranged from O Sole Mio to Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World. With the crowd joining in to sing Giligia, it was, without a doubt, the most emotional part of the evening. The event’s DJ was Chris Habibian keeping the attendees dancing to his selection of music until early hours of the morning, even joining in on the dance floor and showing his dance moves. Many children, in their finest outfits, wearing New Year hats and tiaras, were having a great time of their own. At the stroke of midnight with champagne flowing, it was time for early Armenian style breakfast of choreg and string cheese and more dancing.
While the evening was memorable for all, it was also a labor of love, camaraderie, and unstoppable enthusiasm for the 13 (a lucky number, indeed) volunteers who make up the committee.
Planning for the gala began early in 2016, from securing the venue and lining up the entertainment. To add to the excitement, the group decided to take on a bold initiative and launch a car raffle for a Toyota Prius. Beginning late summer and up until late December, a handful of members using social media, Facebook and the weekly e-news from St. Mary and Soorp Khatch, approached family members, friends, and colleagues soliciting support in buying raffle tickets. The highpoint of this drive was the purchase of 100 tickets by an individual who does not even live in the area but for whose support the committee is grateful.
The ticket drawing set for Friday, December 23rd was to coincide with the State of Maryland’s evening pick 3 drawing numbers and the numbers drawn were just as auspicious as it looked – 888. The committee members decided to allocate a portion of the proceeds for Syrian Armenian relief and humanitarian programs and a portion to perpetuate the unity of both Armenian Churches in the Washington area.
ACEP was established after the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide Commemoration that took place in Washington, D.C. in May 2015, with the belief of “unity in working together and unity in bringing people together.” The committee will continue to plan more memorable events in 2017, with one underway in March and of course, New Year’s Eve attendees and the community are looking forward to the 2018 celebrations.