Thursday at the Chicago AYF Olympics

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The AYF Olympics have begun. People started to arrive today from all over the US. Some just want to add another day to their Olympics in Chicago experience. More so, most of those checking in today are here for the Friday athletic events. Tennis, golf and basketball all begin at 9 in the morning. Swimming is in the late afternoon.

The first folks I met were the Baldwins from Detroit: Taleen, CJ, Stella and Sona. We both pulled in at the same time. It was a pleasure to meet Taleen’s family. Next was a trip to the Chicago Welcome Desk that was well organized and staffed by Chicago ladies.  

We grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed over to the comedy club Zanies for the inimitable Vahe Berberian. There were 150 fans in attendance, and Vahe had us all laughing from the moment he took the stage through his entire show. He has a wonderful knack for observing and making light of human nature with a most definite Armenian slant. Kudos to the committee for engaging Vahe to kick-off the entertainment for the AYF Olympic Weekend.  

After Vahe’s show, I met Hatchig Kantzabedian and Minas Kaftajian from Dallas. It was their first time at the AYF Olympics, and they were delighted to be in the great city of Chicago. They told me they always take a Labor Day trip with their wives. The marketing buzz for the Olympics in Chicago on social media and in the Armenian press helped them to make the AYF Olympics in Chicago their destination for this year.  

Upon returning to the hotel, my mother in-law, Mary Mardoian, ran into sisters Sato Sanikian and Haygo Ohanesian from Fresno. They had moved from Beirut to Waukegan back in the 1970s. For the two years they lived there and Kenosha, WI, they sang in the St. Paul choir with Mary and fondly remembered her exquisite voice and guidance she provided as their choir director. They have been in Fresno for 43 years. They were delighted to be in Chicago and reconnect with old friends like Mary.

I heard that there were 17 men signed up to play tennis. That has to be a record. I saw a strapping fellow with a tennis racket in his backpack.  He said he was from New Jersey. While he looked it, he told me he never played any organized tennis. When he told me his name, George Noury, I commented that he looked familiar and asked if he owned a café. He said yes! It turns out we are friends on Facebook where he does a lot of marketing for his restaurant, Nouri Cafe. I told him his marketing was good, and I will visit his Armenian-Syrian restaurant the next time I’m in New Jersey. I would encourage everyone else to check it out and support this young entrepreneur!

The AYF Olympics swings into full action tomorrow with tennis, golf and three-on-three basketball. The ever-popular swimming takes place in the early evening. Come on out and support our young athletes! The entertainment? There are two dances: the Alumni Dance featuring Chicago’s own Hye Vibes with special guest Ara Dinkjian and Ara Topouzian and the AYF Gala – A Little Hayastan with Tigran Asatryan. It should be a fabulous day!

Mark Gavoor
Mark Gavoor is Associate Professor of Operations Management in the School of Business and Nonprofit Management at North Park University in Chicago. He is an avid blogger and oud player.

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