Richmond has a small but robust Armenian community, and this weekend is their 61st annual Armenian Food Festival.
To get ready for this weekend Chuck Ashjian bought more than 1,100 pounds of meat, 300 pounds of onions, and 7 cases of parsley.
“These are called Hye burgers. Hye is short for Armenian. So they’re Armenian burger,” Ashjian explained as he stood by an oversized grill. “It’s a combination of lamb and sirloin with diced onions and parsley. Tomato sauce and other kinds of ingredients like cumin and paprika…”
It’s taken Ashjian 16 years to perfect the recipe. And he serves it up only once a year, at the food festival put on by St. James Armenian Church.
“Armenians came here many years ago and they wanted to have a place to worship so they built this church,” says organizer Leiza Bouroujian. “So the ladies began a small bazaar, bake sale inside.”
Over the years it’s grown into a sprawling three-day food festival with drinks, shopping and music. This year there will also be a dance troupe from D.C.
“And they’re going to have special dances and costumes made in Armenia. And they’re also going to do a workshop where they teach people how to do some of our traditional dances,” says Bouroujian.
The Armenian Food Festival runs from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. On Sunday it runs from noon to 5 p.m. You can find more information and a schedule of events here.