Reedley, CA

California's Oldest Armenian Church to Start Milestone Year on Memorial Day 2022

Armenian California

California’s oldest Armenian religious institution will inaugurate its Quasquicentennial year with a Memorial Day picnic at a matchless venue on the Fresno County Blossom Trail.

Members and friends of Fresno’s First Armenian Presbyterian Church will mark the start of their 125th Anniversary Year on Monday, May 30, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hillcrest Tree Farm, 6943 South Reed Avenue at Adams Avenue in Reedley, California, 16 miles east of Freeway 99.

The public is invited to attend the event, which will include complimentary barbecue kebab and hot dog lunches, water slide bounce houses for children, a backgammon tournament, and steam train rides for all ages. Advance reservations may be made by calling (559) 237-6638 or visiting www.fapc.net.

Virtuoso musician Richard Avedis Hagopian and his band will join the celebrants for an afternoon of ethnic music and dancing. A native of rural Fowler, California and proficient in more than 50 musical instruments, Hagopian is best known as a Master of the Oud, a lute-like instrument. He gained fame as part of the Kef Time Band, which played a style of dance music popular among the Armenian-American communities throughout the United States for the past half century.

Hillcrest Farm is the oldest Christmas Tree Farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Founded in 1960 by Ed and Bonnie Toews, the Farm includes the Hillcrest & Wahtoke Railroad, a five-inch scale/15-inch narrow gauge railway with live steam locomotives and a host of gondolas and stock cars. U.S. Air Force Veterans Sean and Melissa Bautista are the current proprietors of the Farm, Shops, and 1.2 mile Railroad.

Forty immigrants from Marsovan chartered the First Armenian Presbyterian Church in a rented Fresno hall on July 25, 1897. Succeeding generations served in the United States military during World Wars I and II, the Korean conflict, and in Southeast Asia. The congregation’s picnic tradition began with turn-of-the-century Decoration Day gatherings at The Hills, Fresno Beach on the San Joaquin River, Tarpinian Ranch, and Chateau Fresno Park.

The custom of placing flowers on the graves of the war dead began on May 5, 1866 in Waterloo, New York. In 1868, General John A. Logan, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, declared May 30 a day for decorating the graves of dead comrades with flowers. He closed his order by stating: “Let no ravages of time testify to coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided Republic.”

The boyhood Church of Authors William Saroyan and A.I. Bezzerides, FAPC is a member congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America (AEUNA). Reverend Gregory Vahack Haroutunian is the Senior Pastor. The 2022 theme of the congregation is: “Love God. Love Others. Make Disciples.”

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Fulton Street Church (1901-1985)First Armenian Presbyterian Church of Fresno

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