This weekend Turlock embraced its Assyrian heritage with an assortment of delicious food, exotic music, and contagious dancing. All were welcome to come and learn about what the Assyrian culture has to offer.
“A lot of people don’t realize that the Assyrian community in Turlock is quite large, yet we don’t really know each other. This is an event where people can come check out different vendors that are Assyrian-sponsored and Assyrian-owned. To check out food from the Middle East, back east this is what they would eat day and night,” Gvargis Yaco, a Deacon at the local Assyrian Parish, said.
The festival had much to offer in terms of food. There were wonderful dishes that have been passed down through many generations of Assyrian families. As people walked through the festival, they were tempted by the smell of freshly prepared falafel and other traditional meals. Though food may be an incentive to attend this event, the festival had much more to offer.
“We don’t want to call it a food festival, we want to call it an Assyrian festival. It’s centered around our culture, our heritage, and our customs,” Father John Piro, a Reverend at the local Assyrian Parish, said.
The purpose of this festival is to expose those who may not be familiar with the culture to the history of the Assyrian people. An exhibition hall was created to provide information on the historic aspects of this culture, such as the tale of Queen Semiramis; she was known as an Assyrian warrior princess, who rode into battle with her people. Many more historic tales like this were included in the exhibition hall at the Assyrian festival.
“Queen Semiramis is the greatest known Assyrian queen. The history books write that she would actually lead her military into battle. So that was the purpose of bringing her in separately, taking off her royal dress, and revealing her battle armor as she got onto the chariot, ruling over people,” said Piro.
Despite the festival urging people to consume the delicious food and entertainment, it is important to understand the true purpose of the festival, to bring a community together and eliminate any cultural barriers that may be present.
His Grace Mar Awa Royel, a local diocese bishop, said it best, “And remember, we are all Assyrian for the weekend.”