RICHMOND, Va.—The 67th annual Richmond Armenian National Committee (ANC) picnic, sponsored by the ARF Gomideh, took place on June 23 at St. James Armenian Apostolic Church to celebrate the chapter’s anniversary with Armenian kebab and a live band.
Two elected American officials were present at the picnic: Councilman Jonathan T. Baliles of the Richmond City Council, and Virginia Delegate and Minority Caucus Secretary Betsy B. Carr of the Chesterfield and Richmond counties. The ANCA’s Leo Sarkisian interns from Washington, D.C. also joined in on the daylong festivities.
The Armenian community in Richmond prides itself on being among the initial areas of colonial settlement, as well as one of the first sites of Armenian immigration to the United States. The community has been in existence since the 1890’s, when men from the Ottoman Empire came to work and send money back home; after the genocide, however, many could not return, so families settled down in the area, and the community grew solidified. In 1956, the first Armenian church was built, and there are now about 150 families in the area.
Members of the local community were eager to tell stories about Virginian history and the various political and business contributions Armenians have made to the state. Melanie Kerneklian, the former chairwoman of ANC Richmond and founder of the National Organization of Republicans Armenians (NORA), spoke to the interns about the community’s rich Armenian cultural background, and her experiences working in the political arena. Her brother, Bedros Bandazian, is the current chairman of Richmond’s ANC.
“It was indeed a pleasure having the ANCA interns attend our annual picnic,” Bandazian told the Weekly. “People look forward to this event every year and we hope to continue for many years to come.”
ANCA intern Tamar Purut from New Jersey was pleased with the Southern-Armenian hospitality of the community. She told the Weekly, “I enjoyed meeting Armenians from a different state. They were very welcoming, and attending the picnic allowed me to come to the realization that our community is very intimate. I felt like I was home.”