2024 Memorial Day Picnic

First Armenian Presbyterian Church of Fresno

2024 Memorial Day Picnic
27 mai 2024   11:00 AM
6943 South Reed Avenue, Reedley, California
California - United States

On Memorial Day 2024, California’s oldest Armenian religious institution will remember an early-day parishioner on the 105th Anniversary of his passing in the Europe of World War I.

Members and friends of Fresno’s First Armenian Presbyterian Church will commemorate the federal holiday on Monday, May 27, 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 picnic event, which will include complimentary barbecue kebab and hot dog lunches, bounce houses for children, live music with Armenian dancing, and steam train rides for all ages. Advance reservations are recommended and may be made by calling (559) 237-6638 or visiting

The gathered assembly will remember doughboy Sisok Hagop Darbinian. A native of Armenia, Darbinian immigrated with his family to the United States in the summer of 1900. He graduated from Fresno High School (Class of 1912), matriculated at then-Fresno Junior College, and served as Sunday School Superintendent of FAPC. In March 1917, Darbinian joined Section 590 of the U.S. Ambulance Corps while a senior in the College of Commerce at the University of California. After training in Pennsylvania, he arrived in Europe in June 1918 and was attached to the 80th and 89th Divisions and Third Army of the American Expeditionary Forces.

Private First Class Darbinian drove motorized trucks at the battlefront during heavy shell fire and was cited and decorated by the governments of Italy, France, and the United States. He passed away from pneumonia in Coblenz, Germany on Valentine’s Day 1919, three months after the proclamation of the Armistice, and posthumously received the U.C. Certificate of Honor. In August 1920, he was the first Fresno “Pershing Crusader” to have his remains returned to Central California for burial with full military honors at Ararat Armenian Cemetery.

Virtuoso musician Richard Avedis Hagopian and his band will join the Memorial Day 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. Hagopian was inducted into the Valley Music Hall of Fame on September 21, 2022.

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-20th-century Decoration Day gatherings at The Hills, Fresno Beach on the San Joaquin River, Tarpinian Ranch in Easton, 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 2024 theme of the congregation is: “Love God. Love Others. Make Disciples.”

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