Armenian Harvest Festival showcases culture and brings together Armenian community

The Vanush Khanamiryan Dance Academy Troupe preforming several traditional Armenian dances for the introduction of the festival. (Josh Stanavage/The Daily Campus)

The Vanush Khanamiryan Dance Academy Troupe preforming several traditional Armenian dances for the introduction of the festival. (Josh Stanavage/The Daily Campus)

On Saturday afternoon, Global Affairs’ Norian Armenian programs hosted the second annual Armenian Harvest Festival. Located at the Nathan Hale Inn, the celebration of Armenian culture included dance, food and music.

Founded by Alice Norian, the Norian Armenian program works to bring Armenian studies and culture to the University of Connecticut, and aims to connect with Armenian universities worldwide. Starting at noon and running until six, there were several activities throughout the day that showcased different aspects of Armenian heritage. The festival was designed to be similar to a traditional fall festival that could be found in Armenia.

Students, faculty and several members of the Armenian community came together to celebrate and participate in the event.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring together faculty and administration from leading Armenian universities with UConn faculty. This is so special, particularly for young people, because it brings people together to preserve and promote Armenian culture,” said Nina Rovinelli-Heller, Dean of the UConn School of Social Work.

Highlights of the festival included the two workshops, “The Art of Rug Weaving” and “The Making of Armenian String Cheese.”

The rug weaving workshop was led by Hayko Oltaci, master craftsman of Hayko Fine Rugs and Tapestries, based in Long Island. There were several small looms placed around the room where people could hand-weave their own mini-rug. Oltaci walked around the room helping people, demonstrating and talking about the significance of his intricately designed rugs.

In the next room, Maggie Stepanian demonstrated how to make Armenian string cheese, a very popular and unique Armenian snack. She started out with mozzarella cheese curd, heated it up and stretched it out, creating long strands of cheese that viewers could taste for themselves. What makes the cheese so special is the spices that are added to it: black caraway seeds and wild cherry seeds. This is what separates Armenian string cheese from the string cheese typically eaten in America.

Film Commissioner of Armenia Arsen Bagdasaryan was also present at the festival, flown in from Armenia to give a lecture about filmmaking in Armenia. Bagdasaryan is an accomplished film producer and has worked with companies such as Macy’s, Calvin Klein and ABC. Bagdasaryan, originally from the United States, now works to structure the platform of filmmaking in Armenia. He puts teams together and organizes programs that handle tasks such as issuing permits and deciding what plays in theaters in Armenia. His main goal is to promote filming in Armenia and to enhance the film industry.

“There are so many stories there that have yet to be told, everything from love stories to lessons to fables,” Bagdasaryan said.

He said he hopes to continue to expand the film industry and to show the world what Armenia has to offer.

Other events throughout the day included traditional dance and music performances, as well as a set up of Armenian vendors. Jewelry, crafts, silk scarves and food were all for sale, including paintings by artist Ani Moushglan. Moushglan's artwork, which she sells on her Etsy page under "Migrant by Moush," is influenced by her travels in Armenia and her own Armenian background.

“We try to bring in the culture of Armenia, we have dance, vendors, musicians and we try to bring some education into it as well,” said UConn alumna Amber Lee, who was volunteering at the event with Global Affairs.

“Before I started to work in global affairs I didn’t know how much culture Armenia had. For anyone interested in international studies, it is important to come here and learn,” Lee said.

The festival provided a great chance for students to experience aspects of a culture they might not know much about, while also providing the opportunity for Armenian people that live around the New England area to come together and celebrate their heritage.

“The festival connects UConn’s Armenian programs with the community in the state of Connecticut, so it gives the opportunity to showcase and celebrate Armenian culture,” Vice President of Global Affairs Daniel Weiner said.


Melissa Scrivani is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at melissa.scrivani@uconn.edu.