Next Stop—Worcester

(Photo: Sona Gevorkian)

Well, the Olympics Blues Day has come and gone. We are all back home and at work or school. It is a great time to begin to look ahead and begin planning to attend the 87th annual AYF Olympics next year in Worcester. This is a big deal. It is their first time since 1974, 46 years, they have last hosted an Olympics. It is a historic city for Armenian Americans. Worcester was the home of the first Armenian community of significance and the first Armenian church in the US. Worcester also has the honor of being the first AYF Chapter!

The AYF Worcester Aram Chapter has been there throughout the history of the AYF. They have wanted to host another Olympics. But, since 1974, the city of Worcester did not grow and prosper like Boston, and therefore was lacking hotels that could not accommodate the AYF… until recently. There has been a renaissance in Worcester. Worcester has a convention and conference center. They have two new hotels that can indeed accommodate the AYF. Boston hotels have gotten more and more expensive and are all booked with conventions over Labor Day weekend. So, Worcester has become a viable option for the 87th annual AYF Olympics!

While the Worcester Chapter and community are hosting the event, they do plan on tapping into the neighboring chapters and communities for their expertise and help. The entire Worcester community is very excited. They had their first planning meeting in April and 70 people showed up ready, willing and able to get this done. There is an excellent playbook based on past successful Olympics in Philadelphia and Chicago. 

The committee has booked two hotels: The Hilton Garden and The AC Marriott.  The dances will all be at the remodeled DCU Convention Center. They are looking to have all the athletic facilities within 15 minutes of the hotels. The entertainment is still in the works. They are looking for a headliner on Saturday and traditional Olympic music for Friday and Sunday. 

Gary Arvanigian is the alumni co-chair and Michael Melkonian is the AYF co-chair. They are filling out the rest of their committees at this writing. Tirelessly working behind the scenes is the current CE Chair and longstanding Worcester promoter, organizer and cheerleader Kenar Charchaflian. For her, this is a dream come true. In fact Kenar said, “This has been a fantasy goal that Michael and I used to joke about. But, we realized it was a good idea that we are delighted to see happen. I cannot think of a better way to end my AYF career!”

One has to love that 87th annual AYF Olympic logo. A lot of thought has been put into it:

  •       Worcester is known as the heart of Massachusetts
  •       Worcester being the first AYF chapter – can be seen as the heart of the AYF
  •       Harvey Ball – designer of the first smiley was from Worcester, MA

The Worcester Chapter has about 30 members and is looking to move from being a joint chapter to a separate Junior and Senior Chapter in the next year. Much like its home city, the Worcester Chapter is growing and thriving. Be on the lookout for more information on booking hotels, the Ad Book, the entertainment, and more in the coming weeks and month. 

Whether you call it Wistah, Ousder, or Worcester… let’s all gather there next year.

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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