VAN NUYS– More than 15,000 people took part in the closing festivities of the 23rd Annual Homenetmen Navasartian Games–which were held Sunday at Birmingham High School.
Dignitaries present at the ceremonies were Armenia’s Consul to Los Angeles Armen Melkonian–Western Prelate Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian–Armenian Revolutionary Federation Central Committee of Western United States representative Viken Hovsepian–Congressman Brad Sherman–Assemblymen Robert Hertzberg–Scott Wildman–Congressmn George Radanovich representative Steve Samuelian Homenetmen Central Executive representatives Jirayr Sarkissian and Koko Balian–the Games’ honorary presidents Mr. and Mrs. Dikran and Zarouhi Der Ghazarian–last year’s honorary presidents Mr. and Mrs. Garbis and Therese Kemanjian–Homenetmen’s lifetime honorary president Kerop Arakelian–the "1998 Ideal Homenetmen Member" Award winner Hagop Ovaian and other sister organizations’ representatives.
Master of Ceremonies Eva Sahagian–after welcoming the spectators–invited Congressman Sherman and Assemblymen Hertzberg and Wildman to the stage who congratulated Homenetmen members for being model citizens in Navasartian’s positive and healthy atmosphere during the duration of the games and festivities. The political figures also reconfirmed their support for issues of concern to the Armenian-American community–including the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
The announcers for the Closing Ceremonies–as in past years–were Ani Hovannisian and Garbis Chekherdemian–who moderated the events in English and Armenian–respectively. The parade of athletes began in the chronological order of the chapters’ establishment. Taking part in the parade were the officials–scouts and athletes from each chapter. The participants were treated to loud ovations by the crowd–prior to taking their place behind their respective chapter flag on the field.
The Glendale "Ararat" chapter’s scouts acknowledged the chapter’s 20th anniversary–while the Pasadena "Azadamard" chapter presented Homenetmen’s 80th anniversary emblem. Also–wearing special uniforms–the youngest members presented all the honored guests with flowers. The Fresno chapter showered spectators with raisins–symbolic of their region–a rich agricultural area.Visiting Homenetmen delegations from France–Argentina and Canada were met with warm applause and cheering. In a show of camaraderie the Argentine athletes–holding a massive Armenian flag–presented their caps to the spectators. The crowd reached its loudest point when a hundred plus members of the Homenetmen’second jamboree–which will be leaving for Armenia this week marched.
In his speech Homenetmen Western Region Executive Chair Mher Tavidian expressed the difficulty and struggle the organization has had to endure in order to survive an astounding eighty years outside of the homeland. The strength to survive was derived from its goals and its desire to see the youth enjoy a free and independent homeland. He then went on to thank the parents for their support of their youngsters Special thanks was also given to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation for its support.
Navasartian Games sponsors including Citibank–Sunrise Jewelry–Southern California Edison–Primex Clinical Laboratories and all the other patrons and sponsors of the games were recognized by Tavidian. The regional representative went on to recognize the Games’ honorary presidents Mr. and Mrs. Der Ghazarian for their undying support and encouragement over several decades–for sponsoring this year’s games.
Stressing Homenetmen’s educational role–Tavidian announced the establishment of the "Kevork Andonian Educational Fund" which was established by his two sons–longtime devoted members of Homenetmen–who will give two students–who are Homenetmen members 2000 dollars yearly in furthering their education. Tavidian then went on to announce the first candidates for the award Arbi Baghdassarian from "Ararat" chapter and Lusine Danakian from the Los Angeles chapter.
Tavidian continued with pointing out the importance of Consul Melkonian’s presence at the games for the first time.
Melkonian on behalf of the Armenian government told the spectators that he is convinced that the first 80 years of Homenetmen’s history is only the beginning for the organization–and it will celebrate many more decades of success. The Consul went on to praise the essence of camaraderie–which according to him–was apparent in the games–as well as in every aspect of the Navasartian Games–which he paralleled to the Olympics. .
In addition–Western Prelate Moushegh Mardirossian offered his blessings and congratulations on Homenetmen’s 80th anniversary.
In closing–the first championship trophies of this year’s games were presented in the memory of Jora Mardirossian–the regional executive’s vice-chair and past Navasartian Games chairperson–who passed on only recently. This year’s Achievement Cup went to the South Bay Aragadz chapter for overall improvement in all chapters activities.