VAN NUYS–The 24th Homenetmen Navasartian Games came to an exciting end Sunday at the Birmingham High School field–with an impressive closing ceremonies featuring the traditional parade of athletes and scouts witnessed by some 10,000 community members and supporters.
Present at the Closing Ceremonies were Western Prelate Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian–Armenia’s Consul General to Los Angeles Armen Melkonian–Homenetmen Central Executive members Jirair Sarkissian–Koko Balian and Stepan Der-Bedrosian (from Lebanon)–Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee members Mardig Gaboudian and Avetis Ispenjian–and the 1999 "Outstanding Homenetmen Member" Garbis Eulmesekian.
Also attending the ceremonies were a slew of public officials–among them Rep. Brad Sherman–State Senator Adam Schiff–State Assemblymen Scott Wildman and Jack Scott–Los Angeles Country District Attorney Gil Garecetti–LA Country Sheriff Lee Baca and Glendale City councilmembers Dave Weaver and Rafi Manoukian. Also present was Rep. James Rogan’s field representative Lena Kaimian.
The Ceremony began with a flag ceremony led by Homenetmen Regional Scoutmaster Harout Madenian. The flag bearers entered the field with the sounds of the Homenetmen marching band–under the direction Hagop Asadourian.
At the end of the impressive flag ceremony–two girl scouts ascended on a makeshift bridge at the center of the field and unveiled a banner which read "Welcome 2000," reflecting on the organization’s willingness to welcome the new century.
Before commencing the program–Master of Ceremonies Viggen Davtian–called for a moment of silence in memory of the late Catholicos Karekin I–as a sign of respect to whose memory the Navasartian Games were postponed from July 4–and Zarouhie Der-Ghazarian–this year’s Navasartian honorary president–who passed away last week.
In his presentation–Davtian– stressed the important role the Homenetmen has played in the education and upbringing of generations of Armenia’s throughout the world–attributing the vibrant activity of local chapters to the unwavering support and commitment of parents who have "passed down the Homenetmen torch to their children since 1918."
Davtian–together with Homenetmen Regional Executive chairman Manuel Marcelian–invited the elected officials to present proclamations and address the crowd.
In his remarks–Rep. Sherman pledged that he would return to Congress and work hard to ensure US assistance to Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic–adding that Congress should not only recognize the Armenian Genocide–but also to categorize it as the first genocide of the 20th century. "Never again," exclaimed Sherman–referring to the Genocide.
Sherman presented a proclamation and a an American flag which flew over the Capitol building in Washington.
State Sen. Adam Schiff congratulated Homenetmen on the Navasartian games and thanked the committee for making him a part of the celebration. He also announced that a check has already been signed from the state budget allocating almost $500,000 to the Armenian Film Foundation for the production of a documentary on the Armenian Genocide entitled "The Witnesses."
Schiff presented a State Senate Proclamation to Marcelian–as well as a flag which flew over the state Capitol.
Assemblymen Jack Scott and Scott Wildman also addressed the crowd–with Scott presenting a proclamation and Wildman thanking the Homenetmen for its role in providing a safe haven for the Armenian-American youth.
Davtian also read a proclamation from State Sen. Richard Alacorn who was unable to attend the ceremony.
In his remarks–Consul General Melkonian praised the Homenetmen for organizing the Navasartian Games and added that the games instill pride and a national spirit in all the participants. In conclusion he congratulated the organization whose "sole purpose has been to serve our people–to bring together the Armenian youth and guide them toward bigger things in life–our national interests."
The Homenetmen parade of athletes and scouts followed–with members of 17 Western Region chapters–proudly waving the tricolor–marched around the field–led by the Homenetmen Marching Band.
Following the parade–Marcelian discussed the postponement of the games and thanked the public for its support for the organization.
"His Holiness the Catholicos was one of those Homenetmen members who–throughout his life–believed in the mission of the Homenetmen–always supported the organization and encouraged the bringing together of the Armenian youth under its banner," remarked Marcelian.
He emphasized the importance of the Navasartian Games and outlined that seeing the Armenian youth together under one roof gives meaning to the Homenetmen motto of "Elevate yourself and elevate others with you."
In conclusion Marcelian announced the 1999 winners of the "Kevork Andonian Scholarship." This year–the scholarships were awarded to Zareh Baboukhanian of the Glendale Ararat chapter and Sarkis Vartanian of the Pasadena Azadamart chapter. Marcelian thanked the Andonian family for the scholarship fund–named in memory of their father–Kevork.
Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian said the benediction. In his remarks he–too–praised the Homenetmen and its decision to postpone the festivities following the passing of the Catholicos–saying that through that decision it was–once again–proven that the Homenetmen is not a self-serving entity–but rather an organization which serves the Armenian nation.
Following the official portion of the ceremonies–Central Executive members Sarkissian–Balian and Der-Bedrosian joined Marcelian and Homenetmen Athletic director Raffi Ispenjian in handing out the medals.
The Homenetmen chairman also announced the first ever winners of the Jora Martirossian circulating trophy for the Homenetmen’scouting games. The winners were: first place Pasadena Azadamart chapter; Second Place–Glendale Ararat chapter; and third place–the LA Chapter.
The ceremonies were concluded with a spectacular performance by singer Harut Pamboukjian and his band.
The crowd–however–stayed well beyond the closing ceremony and enjoyed the festival which began Thursday as a kick off of the 24th Navasartian Games.