The 34th annual Taste of Armenia Street Festival, one of the largest Armenian cultural events in the country, according to Gary Rejebian, cultural chair and event organizer, was held on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. on Clark Street between Sherman and Benson Aves.
This festival has been taking place every year except for 2020 when it was canceled due to COVID restrictions.
The block facing St. James of Nisibis Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church was blocked off to vehicular traffic, so the crowd, estimated at more than 1,500 throughout the day, had room to shop, eat, dance and enjoy the music, courtesy of the band Mid-East Beat. The festival is an annual fundraiser for the church.
Armenians in the Chicagoland area and foodies in general stopped by to dig into some Armenian food and wine. People stood in line for dinner and to pick up bags of pre-ordered bags of lahmajun, a thin flatbread covered with meat, spices and sometimes vegetables. It’s often nicknamed ‘Armenian pizza,’ although it is not made with cheese.
There were several tables filled with homemade baked goods including cookies, walnut pakhlava, date pastries and breads.
Asked which of these treats were “authentically Armenian,” Victoria Dakessian, a volunteer helping to sell the desserts, said, “They’re all from grandmas.”
One of the cookies, simit, was covered with sesame seeds and contained just the right amount of sweetness and crunch.
Entertainment was provided by a live band, Mid-East Beat, whose members traveled from Racine, Wis., to perform. Some of the members have been playing together for 41 years. They accepted a few requests from the crowd, one of which generated some spontaneous dancing. Known as a tamzara, it is a traditional wedding dance featuring many steps and intricate shoulder movements. Young students of Armenian dance joined older, more experienced dancers for several minutes of fun, in spite of the humidity. The dancers looked graceful even in shorts and T-shirts.
Both the Armenian Dance Company of Chicago, founded at St. James Church in 2008, and the Hamazkayin Chicago Sardarabad Dance Ensemble performed at the festival.