It is that time of the year again. Time to get out the suitcases, charge up the camera batteries, suspend delivery of the mail and newspapers, print the boarding passes, arrange for a taxi to the airport, lay out the clothes and pack your bags. We are excited about our trip.
Are we traveling to Europe? Asia? Hawaii? No, we are off to someplace even better, someplace even more special.
We are going to Worcester, Massachusetts.
When I told my colleagues where we were going, the reaction was “Where?” and even “Why? What for?” I would respond, “Well, that is where the Olympics are this year.” This would of course be followed with a lengthy explanation about the Armenian Youth Federation and why the annual gathering for athletic events and social activities we call the Olympics is so very important to us. Beginning with our grandparents and extending to our grandchildren, five generations of our family have attended this annual gathering. And we are not alone. I can name several other families that proudly claim this kind of generational participation. It wouldn’t surprise me if some families can even claim six or seven generations.
And Worcester… Wistah… Ooster is indeed where it all began.
It is the city in the US where the Armenians first settled en masse. It is the city where we built the first Armenian church in the Western Hemisphere. It’s where my paternal grandfather Aram lived before settling in Watertown. It is an important city for all Armenians in the United States.
The last time the Olympics were in Worcester was 1974. I was 21 years old and in my senior year of college. It was during a time when you could go to the Olympics without having a room knowing you would “crash” someone’s room and, of course, contribute to the hotel bill. I distinctly remember walking into the lobby of the hotel, oud and suitcase in hand. The first people I saw were Rich Berberian, Ron Tutunjian and John Harotian with instruments and suitcases in their hands. Rich said, “Who are you staying with?” I said, “No one… yet.” They said, “Stay with us.” That was the start of an epic Olympic weekend. We had way too many people in the room; you could do that back in those days. But it didn’t matter. Music was our focus, not sleeping. We had our own hook-ups (those words meant something more innocent back in those days as well) which were about as much fun as I ever had at an Olympics. We played in the afternoons and after the dances.
Now, 48 years later, I go to Worcester, cameras, laptop and suitcase in hand. Due to Tom Vartabedian’s influence and charm, Bob Tutunjian (Ron’s older brother), Harry Derderian and I have inherited what Tom used to do all by himself. We write the articles for the Armenian Weekly documenting the weekend. I join Sona Gevorkian and Tamar Kanarian (who is actually missing this year’s festivities… what will we do without her) in taking all the photos of the various athletic and social events. It is a labor of love for all of us that extends a few weeks after the Olympics when the Special Issue is published.
Since golf and tennis take place first thing Friday morning, I travel to the host city on Thursday. This year, my good friend Ara Topouzian of Detroit is going to the Olympics with his family as it is time to bring his AYF Juniors Alec and Aline to the grand tradition. They went out early to make a longer vacation out of it. Of course, he texted me this afternoon, “Hey, I am in Worcester, I thought you would be here. Where are you?” Later in the evening, he sent a photo of a Worcester restaurant he highly recommends, again chastising me for not already being there.
It will be good to be back at the Olympics. I have not attended since 2019 in Chicago. The 2020 games were canceled due to Covid, but we still pulled off an Olympics Special Issue of the Weekly. Last year, the games were in Providence. Out of caution or being total wimps, we did not attend. The team still worked hard to have a magnificent Olympics Special Issue with Harry and I both working from home. This year, we are so happy to return to the Olympics and so happy that it is finally in Worcester again.
As always, I look forward to seeing one and all.
Yipee! We are on the plane 🇦🇲🎶❤️
HAVE A SAFE AND TRIP AND KEEP US INFORMED! GOD BLESS!
What a great write up!
I want to thank Mark and all those in following Unger Tom Vartabedian footsteps. He is looking down on us all, wishing everyone the best. While many of us miss him, I am totally confident and happy with his successors in sharing the Olympic experience through pen and photos.