Lowell ARS Clubhouse Celebrates 50th Year with Sizzle

LOWELL, Mass.—The line at this year’s Lowell Folk Festival never waned. Instead it kept getting bigger and broader as scores of hungry diners waited their turn for a losh kebab dinner and other fine Armenian delicacies served up by the Lowell “Lousintak” Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Chapter.

Lowell ‘Lousintak’ ARS members conjure up another losh kebab venue at the Lowell Folk Fest July 27-28.
Lowell ‘Lousintak’ ARS members conjure up another losh kebab venue at the Lowell Folk Fest July 27-28.

A golden anniversary celebration could not have been a better reason for sharing a bit of culinary expertise with 100,000 people attending the Lowell Folk Festival.

For half of those 50 clubhouse years, the ARS has turned out diligently at this festival with its attractive losh kebab patty and all the fixin’s. Most have sampled the fare in past years. Others couldn’t wait their turn.

As the Armenian tricolor wavered from atop a tent, members worked with gusto below, serving their clientele as if it were Mamajan’s Kitchen. No secrets divulged here. What’s in the patty remains there and is nobody else’s business. Lahmejun, spinach pie, khadayev, baklava, and various other foods were also up for grabs.

As anniversaries go, this one remains a sacred milestone as generations have come and gone, keeping the patriotic torch glowing with homage in this mill city.  Next year, a genocide memorial will be built by City Hall for all to admire. Construction begins this fall.

“We have a history that prides itself on the dedication of its membership,” said Sossy Jeknavorian, who chairs the festival committee. “Outsiders know the Armenian booth and wait each year to patronize us. It’s very befitting to our ARS mission.”

The mission has translated into scholarships, camperships, and community-wide responsibilities.

A festival of this magnitude attracts three generations of workers under one booth, as shifts become intertwined and children are seen working alongside their parents. Should an Armenian band appear on center stage, all the better.

Among those at the height of the activity is 50-year member Angele Dulgarian, who held up the background corps with her preparation work. She’s never missed a festival, much less any ARS attraction. Her finest moment is not seeing the losh sell out but watching her grandchildren do the selling. Daughter Sona Gevorkian chairs the chapter in this milestone year.

“The future appears to be in good hands,” she said. “Seeing the younger generation here gives us a very positive feeling. Sharing our food and culture with other people keeps us very vital.”

The chapter also boasts 5 other 50-year members, with several others on the “golden” cusp.  Over these five decades, the clubhouse has served as a mecca for meetings, conferences, celebrations and anniversaries for the ARS, ARF, and AYF at 194 Liberty St.

It has stood the test of time.

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Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
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