Glendale festival brings Armenian culture and food to the masses

During the annual Armenian cultural and food festival on Sunday, Osanna Bekarian, 77, and Arsine Aposhian, 72, were making what so many Armenians have grown up with: hand-braided string cheese.

Meanwhile, Nyree Derderian, 38, was lamenting about how similar homemade dishes are less often made at home by younger generations who have grown accustomed to purchasing them at the store.

“It takes so much time,” she said. “It’s easier to get it at the store.”

Bekarian and Aposhian — both La Crescenta residents — are members of the Armenian Relief Society of Western U.S.A., which hosts the festival as a fundraiser for its local and international charities. They were joined by Lidia Balaban, who was rolling paper-thin dough with a stick.

People stopped to watch the three at work as Aposhian shredded the soft white cheese from Sun Valley’s Karoun Dairies. Bekarian melted the cheese until it was a stretchable mold before braiding and placing it in salt water for flavor. The cheese may also be dusted with sugar.

Because most people no longer make the cheese at home, Derderian said, “It’s a huge deal for people when they taste it.”

On Saturday, more than 4,500 people enjoyed homemade dishes such as sarma, tabouleh and luleh kabob. Co-chair of the event, Emma Garabetian, expected another 4,000 people on Sunday to attend dance performances and a reenactment of a traditional Armenian wedding.

“We’d like to get more involved with the community, with non-Armenians, too,” Garabetian said.

On Sept. 15, the society will team up with La Crescenta’s Korean community to host a Korean-Armenian festival with children’s rides and food at Crescenta Valley Park.

“If communities work together the city will be stronger,” she said. “That’s what we believe.”

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