Author Archives: Florida Armenians
By Taleen Babayan
FLArmenians Guest Contributor
ASBURY PARK, NJ — The sixth annual “Return to Asbury” kef weekend returns to its historic roots, as Armenian music legend Onnik Dinkjian headlines the popular summer event, scheduled for Aug. 25-27.
The kef music of Onnik and his son, internationally renowned multi-instrumentalist Ara Dinkjian, will evoke the 1950s and 1960s, when Armenians originally gathered in Asbury Park and socialized on the beach, danced to kef music, played tavlou (backgammon), and spent their summer weekends filled with Armenian spirit and camaraderie.
The event, which was revitalized six years ago, brings back that same sentiment highlighted by the musical talents of the Dinkjians as well as the new generation of musicians, including Steve Vosbikian Jr., who grew up listening to both Onnik and Ara, and says he considers it an honor to share the stage with them.
“It means everything to share the stage with these men, both of whom are not only fine musicians but fine family men who have taught us about much more than music,” said Vosbikian, the event’s music development director and a descendant of members of the Vosbikian Band, who played kef music in Asbury Park decades ago. “Onnik and Ara are our kings and our fathers. They are an important part of our Armenian musical culture and identity.”
The weekend will kick off with a happy hour at the beachfront Watermark on Friday evening, followed by a day of fun and games on the 7th Avenue Beach. The joyous kef concert will take place Saturday evening at the famous hotel The Berkeley.
“Armenian music is a commonality in Armenian communities and the tie that binds us,” said committee member Arsine Kaloustian. “This event is a vital part of maintaining our cultural continuity, and also forging friendships, networks (and sometimes marriages!) that cross not only state lines but sometimes international lines as well.”
“Return to Asbury, which is an independent event led by a small committee, focuses on music, dancing, and a good cause,” noted committee member David Norian. All proceeds for the event will benefit Armenian music education, specifically to donate musical instruments for Armenian school children and keep the kef going well into the future.
“Return to Asbury is about people and place, and if we can bring the legendary voice of Onnik back to Asbury Park, for it to be heard again in the halls and in the air that once was filled with these same sounds, then we have achieved the goal we started out with five years ago,” Norian said.
“Return to Asbury” will take place Aug 25-27, 2017, with the big kef dance on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit: returntoasbury2017.eventbrite.com.
Have questions, or a story or photo to share from the past? Please submit them to email@example.com.
By Suren Oganessian
FLArmenians Tampa/St. Petersburg Contributor
Sunday, August 13, 2017 was a day of two celebrations at St. Hagop Armenian Church in Pinellas Park, Florida. Not only was it the day of the annual Blessing of the Grapes, but it was also the date chosen to celebrate Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian’s tenth anniversary of being ordained into priesthood. Local Florida Armenians traveled from as far as Sarasota to be a part of this special event, which was not only an important anniversary for Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, but for the Armenian community of Tampa Bay itself.
Fr. Hovnan has accomplished much in the U.S. and in Armenia, having taught there with the U.S. Peace Corps from 1996 to 1998, and then helping to establish the Armenian Volunteer Corps in 2000. He joined the Diocese of the Armenian Church in 2003, and in June 2007 he was ordained and assigned to be a pastor at St. Hagop. Before the establishment of St. Hagop Armenian Church, Armenians of the Tampa Bay area had no place else to conjugate, not without a long drive to Orlando or Boca Raton. In the last decade, the church has become a beacon for the local Armenian community, which though small is finally beginning to establish itself in the area. “The Armenian community here is very welcoming,” Fr. Hovnan told FLArmenians.com. “People here are from everywhere, making it very diverse. The community is always looking forward,” he said.
The day began with the Divine Liturgy, moving on to the Blessing of Grapes and a celebratory luncheon for Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian. Presiding over the ceremony was Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, who traveled all the way from New York City. It was one of many visits he has made to St. Hagop Armenian Church over the last ten years. He has watched the local parish grow from 23 members in 2007 to over 150 today. “With God, things become possible,” said Archbishop Barsamian at the accompanying luncheon. “To have an Armenian Church in St. Petersburg 50 years ago would have been seen as a dream. But it is good to dream.” Thanks in part to the excellent spiritual leadership Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, he went on to say, that dream has come to fruition.
Fr. Hovnan Demerjian accepted the praise of his peers with humbleness and optimism for the future. While Fr. Hovnan’s immediate mission in coming to Tampa Bay – to build the church and the accompanying Shahnasarian Hall – has been completed, he notes that the long-term mission to “bring people together in a family of God” is ongoing. Over the next ten years, Fr. Hovnan has even bigger plans. “The work of building the Armenian community we all want has just begun. In the next ten years, we hope to have an improved Sunday school and even more faith and heritage programs,” Fr. Hovnan said.
By Taniel Koushakjian
Florida Armenians Editor
Today, Danny Tarkanian appeared on the Fox & Friends show to announce his campaign for the U.S. Senate. Tarkanian’s candidacy sets up a primary challenge for incumbent Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) who was first elected in 2012, and whom Tarkanian states “turned his back on us.”
In an email letter to Nevada voters, Tarkanian wrote, “Over the past several weeks, I had many people – literally hundreds – contact me and ask me to please run against Dean Heller. They expressed their frustration with Senator Heller, and all the other politicians, who promise one thing when they are running for office and then do the exact opposite in Washington DC.
Tarkanian credits “Senators Paul Laxalt and Richard Bryan, one a Republican, the other a Democrat,” as his inspiration for public service. “They were true statesmen. Public servants with rock solid convictions who kept their word,” he said.
“I am running for United States Senate because Dean Heller turned his back on Nevada since he became a US Senator. He campaigned across our state on the basis of repealing Obamacare, being pro-life, and generally conservative on the issues.
“Unfortunately, he simply changed in Washington DC. Conservatives now refer to him as DC’s Dean Heller rather than Nevada’s Dean Heller.”
In his letter, Tarkanian also acknowledged his previous campaigns for office, particularly his nail-bitting 2016 race for Congress where he lost by 1%.
The son of legendary University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, Danny has been a small business owner, philanthropist, and community leader in the Silver State throughout his life.
A recent poll of Republican voters in Nevada by Strategic National finds Heller with a 31% approval rating, and a 43% disapproval rating. The poll further reveals Heller’s vulnerability, which showed that only 39% of respondents hold a favorable opinion of Heller, while 43% of respondents hold an unfavorable opinion of Heller.
In a head-to-head match-up, Heller received 38% to Tarkanian’s 34%, which is within the margin of error.
The Strategic National poll surveyed 500 registered Nevada Republicans on August 1 and 2, and has a margin of error of 4.4%.
Below is Danny Tarkanian’s official statement on running for the United States Senate:
“Over the past several weeks, I have been inundated with text, emails, and phone calls from people of all walks of life across the state of Nevada who are upset with Dean Heller for campaigning one way in Nevada and voting the exact opposite in Washington DC. The refrain is the same: he turned his back on us.
Today, after much thought and discussion with my family and friends, I have decided to run for the United States Senate. I am running for United States Senate because Nevada deserves a Senator who will keep his word and vote in Washington DC the same way he campaigns here in Nevada.
I am a conservative Republican who supports the policies of President Trump to repeal Obamacare and end illegal immigration. I will continue to support President Trump’s policies that have led to a 20% increase in the stock market in just six months. I will join Senator Lee, Senator Cruz, and Senator Paul fighting for real reforms against the liberals in our party.
I look forward to campaigning across the state of Nevada and earning your support. It is time to take a stand. Together, we will make our state, and our country, proud.”