Local church invites community to enjoy Armenian food

St. Mary Armenian Church in Yettem hosts 45th Annual Armenian Food Festival, tickets available for $20

VISALIA – For those who have a craving for Armenian food can now support a local church as well as satisfy their craving by purchasing a meal which includes kebabs, summer salad, rice pilaf, peda bread and baklava.

This year on May 28, St. Mary Armenian Church in Yettem will be hosting their 45th Annual Armenian Food Festival. For the past two years, the festival has been solely a drive through event; however, this is the first since the pandemic that the group will be hosting with in person dining options available. Community members will have the opportunity to eat Armenian food for lunch and dinner at the Visalia Elks Lodge located at 3100 west Main Street in Visalia. Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and dinner will be available from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

“[When it first began] it was only a lunch and it was just an opportunity to Visalians downtown and whatever business men would come for a lunch and it serves as a good fundraiser for the church,” Sheklian said.  “And that evolved into what we now call the Armenian Food Festival.”

Attendees can come sit down and enjoy their meal or choose to drive through. Tickets will be $20 for a dinner which includes the diner’s choice of a lulu kebab–half beef and half lamb ground meat patty–or chicken kebabs along with a summer salad, rice pilaf, peda bread and baklava for dessert. Tickets will be available at the door or at the drive-through and they will be accepting cash, check or Zelle payments. For more information or questions, individuals can call the church office at 559-528-6892.

Proceeds from the dinner go to the church and according to Sheklian, they typically make a donation to local food banks as well. Last year, in one of their drive-through only events, the church sold around 1,100 meals. This year they are preparing even more than that. In addition to the meals, Sheklian said there will be a bake sale as well with several other Armenian treats available for sale.

The food festival began as a “merchants luncheon” at the Visalia Veterans Building in downtown Visalia according to Sheklian. It was geared toward businessmen and individuals who could walk down the street for a bite to eat to split up their day. It has since expanded, and about ten years ago Sheklian said the event moved to the Elks Lodge.

Typically, Sheklian said they have two food festivals each year, one in May and one around October; however this year they are trying something new. On Sept. 23, the group will be hosting a golf tournament at the Tulare Golf Course. Armenian food will still play a role as each golfer will receive a meal.

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