American Armenian group holds fundraiser for 2015 Rose Parade

The American Armenian Rose Float Association (AARFA) honored seven individuals who are among the first American Armenians to participate in the Tournament of Roses, the The Pasadena Star-News reports.

The fundraising dinner. titled “Gala Under the Stars,” took place Sunday night at the Rose Bowl.

 The AARFA, entering a float for the first time in the 126th Rose Parade, also announced some of the American Armenians who will be riding on the float. Television host and entertainment journalist Jill Simonian emceed.

“To be able to share our 7,000-year-old history with the world through the Rose Parade, I think that’s phenomenal,” said Simonian.

 The honorees included Movses Pashgian, Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade in 1915, whose great-granddaughter, Pamela Knapp, was present to accept the honor; the five American Armenian players on the Stanford football team who played in the 1952 Rose Bowl: Chuck Essegian, Harry Hugasian, Gary Kerkorian, Norm Manoogian and Len Kaprielian; and 2006 Rose Princess Rachel Geragos.

“This is really an exciting occasion, I never thought I would see it,” said Geragos. “We’re all excited for this big accomplishment in our heritage. I’m looking forward to watching on Rose Parade day.”

Jerry Tarkanian, known as one of the most successful college basketball coaches, and former San Antonio Spurs coach, was also on hand and will be one of the riders on the Rose Parade float, as well as Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan, a United States federal judge for the Northern District of Illinois, and former California Governor George Deukmejian, Jr.

“The dream is becoming a reality,” said Flora Dunaians, gala co-chair, who will also ride on the float.

Dunaians, a Pasadena native, has been involved with several community service organizations for more than 20 years, among other endeavours in the city, as well as in Armenia.

The float, being built by Phoenix Decorating Company, will feature themes and images representing the Armenian culture and the contributions Armenians have made in the world, including the United States.

Gala attendees were also shuttled early in the gala to the nearby Phoenix warehouse to view the float, which is mostly done except the flowers.

The Jan. 1, 2015 parade is themed “Inspiring Stories,” and the association jumped on the chance to be a part of it and show the inspiring people and stories from the American Armenian community.

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