During a fundraising dinner on the night of December 11th, the American Armenian Rose Float Association (AARFA) raised $110,000 toward the construction of the third Armenian rose float and its participation in the 128th Pasadena Tournament of Roses, which will be held on January 2, 2017.

Close to 200 supporters attended the fundraising event, which was held at the Phoenix Decorating Company, in Pasadena. Throughout the evening, guests had the opportunity to take a first-hand look at the newest Armenian rose float, which is kept and being worked on inside the Rose Palace of the Phoenix Decorating Company. To date, the construction of the framework and architectural components of the float have been completed. The dry decoration of the float will be implemented in the next few weeks, and the culminating flower decorations will be carried out during the five days leading up to the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.

The first Armenian rose float, which carried the theme “Cradle of Civilization,” went on to earn the Pasadena Tournament of Roses’ prestigious President’s Award for “most effective floral use and presentation.” The second Armenian rose float, which carried the theme “Discover Armenia” presented our treasured heritage and architecture of our homeland. “On New Year’s Day, 2015 and 2016, as the Armenian rose float rolled down Colorado Boulevard, it promoted Armenian culture and identity in Los Angeles and across the world,” AARFA Treasurer Stepan Partamian said as he addressed the guests. “The float was seen by about 700,000 spectators in Pasadena and a global audience of 1.5 billion in 115 countries. The forthcoming Tournament of Roses will be seen by an even greater number of people. I can’t imagine a better or more cost-effective conduit for familiarizing the world with Armenian civilization. Think about it: as a community, we’ll be spending a mere $300,000 on the third Armenian rose float, yet achieve the type of global exposure that would require millions of dollars.”

As she delivered her welcome remarks, the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, Jill Simonian, underscored this year’s theme “Echoes of Success,” and the newest Armenian Rose Float will be called “Field of Dreams.” The 2017 theme celebrates those who have been instrumental in helping each of us and in helping others achieve success. It’s about the people and cultures that lend us a hand in reaching our destination. In light of this year’s theme, Jill was able to thank many guests and honor their success stories in our community, as a representation of who we are, including announcing its 2017 float riders: Michael Aram, Artist, with his two children, Anabel Rose Aram and Thadeus Jasper Aram; Claudette Stefanian, Television Newscaster; Houry Gebeshian, Olympian; Arturo Azinian, Renowned Cobbler to the Stars; Dr. Sarkis Mazmanian, Microbiologist and a surprise guest.

Accordingly, AARFA, produced two short videos, presenting the importance of the “Field of Dreams” to the Armenian community, featuring three children atop a majestic Artsakh (Karabagh) Stallion in the foreground descending from historic Mt. Ararat in the background where Noah’s Arc came to rest. Mt. Ararat has long stood as a spiritual symbol of faith for people around the world. Also growing out from the soil of this snow-capped mountain, a pomegranate tree with a peacock, a symbol of good fortune and fertility for Armenians around the world. The children atop the Artsakh Stallion wear traditional Armenian garments, hold symbols representing Literature, Music and Science, paying tribute to the fields in which this historic ancient people have contributed to the collective human experience. The design concept, came from Armenian artist Sevada Grigoryan, who authorized our use of the image and its redesign as the 2017 Field of Dreams Float by board member Johnny Kanounji.

In the course of his remarks, Partamian announced a special recognition to Antranig Baghdassarian of Karoun Dairies as the model of “Echoes of Success,” who from zero, created Karoun Dairies, a nationally known successful enterprise. Partamian recognized Baghdassarian as a benefactor without whom AARFA could not have achieved our successes, presenting a plaque “We Could Not Have Done It Without You” and naming him the honorary float rider of January 2, 2017. Antranig Baghdassarian in acceptance stated, “the Armenian rose float proved to the world that Armenian’s are here to stay” and we must use every opportunity to show that to the world our successes and donate to AARFA to continue this tradition of showcasing our people.

Partamian then announced a string of donations that were made by guests. They included Antranig Baghdassarian of Karoun Dairies, who once again contributed $50,000; and Mr. and Mrs. David and Margaret Mgrublian, Flora Dunaians, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph and Savvy Tufenkian, GotPrint, all of whom in total with many other contributions from our guests contributed to AARFA donations of $110,000.

“This evening, like the work of AARFA as a whole, represents the concept of ‘minimum expense and maximum return,’” Partamian said. “Thanks to in-kind donations, including the provision of this banquet space by the Phoenix Decorating Company, we were able to organize this event by spending only $15,000, and have already raised $110,000, which will help us significantly to cover the costs of the construction of the Armenian rose float and its participation in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.”

“I would also like to stress the importance of having repeat donors,” Partamian continued. “There’s a very good reason that benefactors such as Mr. Baghdassarian are once again supporting the Armenian rose float initiative: they see enormous value in a project that inspires and mobilizes the entire Armenian community including our Field of Dreams – Artsakh, while promoting Armenian identity and culture on an international scale.” “We would also like to thank our sponsors, Vertigo for all of the amazing food for the evening, Neptune Productions for everything you do, D’Ziner Signs, Lights Camera Action for all the photos of the night; Remedy Liquor, Bon Cafetite, and of course Tic-Tock and MTB Event Rentals for the amazing décor.” said Jill Simonian.

The President, Noubar Derbedrosian gave his closing remarks in stressed the importance of all Armenians to participate in any way they can and support the realization of this initiative by all of us universally stating “AARFA is for every Armenian, no matter what other organizations or denominations you belong too, you as an Armenian always belong with us. One nation. One People.”

This year, as in the past, AARFA has continued to have the Armenian Rose Float Ambassador Program, whereby volunteers can become city-specific ambassadors of the rose float to raise at least $3,000 from their respective communities. In 2015, we have had the dedication and work of six ambassadors by presenting them with the first-ever AARFA Ambassadorship pins. The honored ambassadors were Garbis Der-Yeghiayan (representing La Verne, California), Carmen Libaridian (Hollywood Hills, California), Flora Dunaians (Pasadena, California – south of 210 Freeway), Margaret Mgrubian (Pasadena, California – north of 210 Freeway), Greg and Caroline Tufenkian (Glendale, California), Tony Melconian (La Crescenta, California), and Hratch Kozibeyokian (Shadow Hills, California). Currently AARFA is seeking to enlist additional ambassadors to represent cities across the US. Those who are interested can email the association at [email protected].

To date, AARFA has raised $180,000 of the $300,000 needed for the construction of the second Armenian rose float and its participation in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses. The AARFA, whose sole mission is to raise funds to be spent annually on the Armenian float, continues to accept donations and is seeking corporate sponsors to help fund the project. Tax-deductible contributions can be made securely through the AARFA site (at aarfa.org) or by mailing a check to: AARFA, P. O. Box 60005, Pasadena, CA 91116.

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