When the concept of the Navasartian Games was conceived 33 years ago, no one could have guessed its rapid evolution and uncontrollable growth.
During the first years of the event, athletes competed, received their awards and headed home. There was no festival: no vendors, no focal point that features Armenian pop singers belting out tune-after-tune-after-tune, no food vendors–which meant no Soujoukh.
Today, myriads of food vendors line the area visitors go through to get from athletic events to the main festival.
This year the festival and the last days of the 33rd Navasartian competitions were again held at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, California, July 3-6.
For four days straight, singer after singer performed on the huge stage that was surrounded by about a 100 vendors. Booths displayed everything from clothing and accessories to the Hye Riders motorcycle club, even information on plastic surgery. That area, and adjoining food booths, is maybe 1500 yards (every inch packed with people) away from competitions taking place on the field and in the school’s gymnasiums.
Billed as the largest athletic event west of the Mississippi, the Navasartian Games bring together athletes from Homenetmen’s 460 basketball teams, 40 soccer teams 200 athletes in track and field, from a total of its 8000 athletes.
This year’s athletic events formally ended on Sunday, July 6 when, despite the raging heat, thousands gravitated from the festival area to Birmingham High School’s track for closing ceremonies that began at 5:30PM.
Led by Homenetmen Western Region Chairman Steve Artinian, guests were escorted to the field. They included Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, this year’s Navasartian Honorary Presidents Vahagn and Baydsar Thomasian, and 2008 Exemplary Homenetmen member Albert Ounjian with his wife Shake.
The program began with introductions by Nora Tchaparian and Garbis Shekherdemian, followed by a moment of silence in the memory of diseased Homenetmen members.
Regional Scout Council leader Hrair Boyadjian kicked off the event by signaling the start of the flag ceremony, with flags of the United States, Armenia, Artsakh, California, Homenetmen and Navasartian Games all to the music of the Homenetmen marching band, led by Vartan Asadourian.
Addressing the massive crowd, REC Chairman Artinian spoke about the history-making year the past year has proven to be with the purchase of the largest Homenetmen campground, Camp Tecuya, and the region’s center that will boast a sprawling facility when construction is complete later this year.
He thanked the Nourian family for donating the thousands of Navasartian Tournament trophies in memory of deceased Homenetmen member Peter Nourian.
Artinian welcomed 2008 Exemplary Homenetmen member Albert Ounjian, outgoing Navasartian President Varouj Bedikian, along with guests and spectators.
He thanked 2008 Honorary presidents Vahagn and Baydsar Thomasian and their daughter Soseh for their dedication to Homenetmen and their commitment to take it to new heights.
Guests at this years ceremony included Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Armenia’s Vice Consul General in Los Angeles Mesrob Shaboian, Homenetmen Central Executive Vice Chairman Koko Balian, ARF West CC member Hagop Tufenkjian, 32nd Navasartian Honorary President Varouj Bedikian, 2008 Exemplary Homenetmen member Albert Ounjian, Glendale City Council member Dave Weaver, Glendale Unified School District President Greg Krikorian, Glendale City Clerk Ardie Kassakhian, Chivas USA soccer player Alecko Eskandarian, along with representatives of Wachovia Bank, affiliate organizations, past honorary presidents and Exemplary Homenetmen members, and a couple of thousand spectators, parents and members of the organization that is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year.
The formal program also featured a blessing from Prelate Mardirossian and words of praise and encouragement from Homenetmen Central Executive Vice Chairman Balian.
After heartfelt addresses, the long-awaited march of athletes got underway. Led by the Homenetmen Marching Band, thousands of athletes from the regions 17 chapters marched around the track to cheers and clapping.
With the handing over of the Navasartian flag to this year’s Honorary presidents, the Games formally ended.
Suddenly, thousand descended on the festival grounds, which had been relatively calm for the first time since the festival’s start. With music and the spirit that brings about the Navasartian Games, festival goers celebrated until midnight; until next year.