By Taleen Babayan
ASBURY PARK, N.J.—Hundreds of Armenians will once again flock to the Jersey Shore’s historic Asbury Park to spend a weekend full of camaraderie and tradition during “Return to Asbury.”
Now in its fourth year, this unique event has gained immense popularity and draws Armenians from the East and West Coasts for a weekend of socializing on the beach, dancing to traditional Armenian kef music, and participating in tavloo and volleyball games.
“Return to Asbury,” hosted by the New York Armenian Students’ Association and Florida Armenians, has ushered in a new generation of Armenians, emulating those before them who gathered there in Asbury Park in the mid-20th century, when the city’s summers were full of Armenian hotels and nightly “kef” concerts. One of the highlights of those summer weekends was the Vosbikian Band, who will play at the historic Asbury Park Convention Hall after a 50-year hiatus in a special one night-only performance.
“I have many fond memories of Asbury Park during the 1960’s and 70’s,” said band member Steve Vosbikian. “During the summer months, the hotels would swell with Armenians from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and no matter where you turned there was an Armenian scene going on.”
Although the Asbury summers had diminished by the end of the 1970’s, the idea of bringing a new generation of Armenians together to this significant spot in Armenian-American history was conceived by Robin Barone four years ago.
“I am humbled by how the community has rallied around the vision and its growth over the years,” said Barone. “I am overjoyed when I am told that an individual loves to attend to be Armenian among other Armenians.”
This year’s “Return to Asbury,” in the capable hands of Arsine Kaloustian and Taniel Koushakjian, promises traditional events as well as exciting new ones. A happy hour at the beachfront Watermark will kick off the weekend, followed by a day of fun and games on the 7th Avenue beach and a night of dancing at the historic Asbury Park Convention Hall featuring the Artsakh Band and the Vosbikian Band.
“This year’s Return to Asbury has particular meaning for me as we have all seen our communities band together recently as we continue to commemorate the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide,” said Kaloustian, chair of Return to Asbury. “We have all drawn closer to our culture this year and Asbury Park plays such a big role in that culture, having brought countless Armenians to the Jersey Shore since the 1930’s. It is a beacon of so much of what makes us proud to be Armenian—tradition, music, food, family, and the sheer joy that comes from just being around each other.”
“Return to Asbury is a time honored tradition spanning four generations of Armenian culture in America,” said Koushakjian, founder of Florida Armenians. “Many East Coast Armenians grew up hearing about Asbury Kef, and, like me, didn’t realize the impact it had on our community. I’m honored to help keep ‘Return to Asbury’ going and make this year’s kef better than ever.”
This article originally appeared in the Armenian Weekly and is republished with the expressed written consent of the author.
Return to Asbury is pleased to be going into its 4th revival year in a row – and it is bigger and better than ever. With over 260 tickets sold so far, and prices set to go up on Wednesday, July 22, 2015, now is the time to join hundreds of Armenian Americans from across the U.S. in one of the oldest traditions – kef on the beach!
There’s something for everyone – join us at the Watermark Lounge for a welcoming cocktail on Friday night, then play Tavloo with the best of them on Saturday morning, and be sure to get some sun on the 7th Avenue beach Saturday afternoon (look for the Armenian flags!), or grab a drink poolside as the sun sets. Finally, this year’s attendees will become part of the first Armenians to attend a Kef at the Historic Asbury Park Convention Hall! You will be surrounded by hundreds of friends and family, making memories to talk about for years to come.
This year’s much-awaited ‘Armenian Kef Weekend on the Beach’ will feature the amazing Artsakh Band and…..the return of the Vosbikian Band to Asbury Park, NJ for the first time in over 40 years! This will be a one-night-only performance so don’t delay.
ADULT, STUDENT, & CHILD TICKET PRICES
- Armenian Kef Night Adult tickets: $85 before July 22, $100 after.
- Armenian Kef Night Student tickets: $65
- Armenian Kef Night Child (age 6-12) tickets: $45
- Children 5 and under are free
All adult kef night tickets include one free premium liquor drink.
Grab your friends and family and come to the beach this summer. Be a part of something that’s bigger than all of us – tradition!
Hotel rooms in Asbury Park can be found through the links below:
* PROGRAM OF EVENTS *
TICKETS SOLD ONLY IN ADVANCE
- Friday 5:30 PM: Happy Hour at Watermark Lounge (21+ cash bar)
- Saturday 11:00 AM: Tented Tavloo Tournament on the Beach ($30)
- Saturday 12:00 PM: 7th Avenue Beach Party
- Saturday 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM: Poolside Happy Hour (cash bar)
- Saturday 8:00 PM: Armenian Kef Night ($85 before July 22, $100 after)
SATURDAY NIGHT KEF – 8:00 PM
ASBURY PARK HISTORIC CONVENTION HALL
Live Music, Mezze, and Cash Bar
THE VOSBIKIAN BAND
Steve Vosbikian, Sr.- Clarinet
Steve Vosbikian, Jr. – Sax/Vocals
Greg Vosbikian – Oud
Samuel Vosbikian – Dumbeg
Christopher Vosbikian – Dumbeg
Michael Vosbikian, Jr. – Saxophone
Glen DerHagopian – Dumbeg
Haig Hovnanian – Zils/Tambourine
Stephen Hovnanian – Vocals
Jimmy Kzirian – Dumbeg/Vocals
Ara Dinkjian – Keyboards
THE ARTSAKH BAND
Anto Vartanian – Vocals
Jimmy Kzirian – Drum Set
Steve Vosbikian – Clarinet/Zurna
Aram Hovagimian – Keyboard
Anthony Deese – Keyboard
Proceeds to benefit Camp Haiastan, Camp Nubar, and St. Vartan Camp.
Sponsored by the New York Armenian Students’ Association. Event planning provided by Florida Armenians.
We thank the following organizations for their support:
agbu * acyoa * agla ny * armnet-ny * armnet-dc
ayf * fund for armenian relief * knights of vartan
birthright armenia * homenetmen * soar
By Robyn Kalajian
FLArmenians Cuisine Contributors
Asbury Park, New Jersey had been my family’s go-to vacation destination ever since the early 1950’s. Some landmarks of that era included the Van Hotel, Hye Hotel, Berkeley-Carteret Hotel, Monte Carlo swimming pool, Convention Hall, Sunset Lounge, the boardwalk, and, of course, the beach!
Armenians crowded the sandy shore mostly between 6th Avenue and 8th Avenue. Beach blankets covered the sand; kef-time music filled the air. It was an awesome, innocent, coming-of-age location.
The late 1960’s -1970’s presented hard times for Asbury. Thankfully, the area has come into its own again. Tourism is once again flourishing, and Armenians are returning! In fact, 2015 marks the fourth consecutive year where Armenians will appear en masse in Asbury!
This year’s ‘Return to Asbury’ kef weekend on the beach is taking place from August 7th through August 9th. By attending, you’ll not only have the time of your life, the event proceeds will benefit Camp Haiastan, Camp Nubar, and St. Vartan Camp.
Arsine Kaloustian and Taniel Koushakjian, founders of the state-wide organization Florida Armenians (FLArmenians) and rising community leaders, are working hard to make this year’s gathering super-spectacular. I’ve known these two fine, young professionals since they were children. I met Taniel when he was five, but have known his mother, Arlys, since she and I were in our early teens – in fact, we met at the Van Hotel in Asbury Park! I met Arsine and her family when she was about 12. Arsine, Taniel, and my daughter, Mandy are all about the same age, and grew up in South Florida. They formed a close-knit friendship from the very start – but I digress.
Return to Asbury 2015 will feature the Artsakh Band and……for the first time in Asbury in almost 50 years…..the Fabulous Vosbikian Band!
Need a place to stay? Check out the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel or the Hotel Tides. There are also some B&Bs in the area.