LA Food Festival opens ancient door to Assyrian culture

Tarzan, CA hosts Assyrians, non-Assyrians for music, food, cultural lessons

June 2018 | By Atorina Samuel | Cover photo by Polos Shamsabadi

Tarzana, CAArbella Rasho joined a number of Assyrian youth in Tarzana, California on Sunday, June 10 as she waved an Assyrian flag in front of hundreds of gathered Assyrians at the 17th Annual Assyrian Food Festival. It was the festival’s closing ceremony and she was chanting alongside her father, Los Angeles Assyrian Church of the East (ACOE) St. Mary’s parish priest Father George.

“Don’t let them tell you there is no Assyria, because as long as you are here, you are Assyria,” Father George said to the crowd.

The festival, held on the St. Mary’s church grounds, ran from Saturday, June 9 through Sunday, June 10 and included culture, food, and dancing.

Photo by Atorina Samuel

A popular feature of this year’s festival was “Exhibition Assyria” that walked guests through the history of the Assyrians from their earliest days to the present and included Assyrian inventions, traditional clothing, and genocide history.


A giant replica of the Ishtar Gate surrounded the center stage where singers Martin Yaqoo, Ramsen Sheeno, Salim Lazar, and Romeo Khoshaba performed a variety of old and new Assyrian songs.

On the last day of the festival, Sunday School and youth group members participated in a parade that showcased the Assyrian empire and culture. Young Assyrians dressed in traditional Assyrian clothing and performed multiple dances.

Planning for the festival began as early as September of 2017.

“This year, every booth was Assyrian owned and operated and the church booths were the food, drink, gift shop and the youth booth,” Rasho said.

LA Food Fest 3 edited
Photo by St. Mary’s Polos Shamsabadi

The festival began nearly two decades ago and takes place every spring, drawing a large number of Assyrians as well as nearby residents.

“My dad started the festival to bring the Assyrian community together,” Rasho said. “In the beginning years, we actually lost money until we understood and worked through the stuff that wasn’t successful.”

Assyrian James Royel has traveled from Turlock, California every year since 2008 to attend the festival.

His mother Alice is one of the festival’s many vendors. Her booth, Elegant Gifts and Décor, offers a variety of items such as teacup sets, vases, and cake toppers.

“I go to the festival because it is such an amazing experience to be part of,” James said. “You truly feel like you are walking through a museum, except with loud music, amazing traditional food, and Assyrians from all over the state.”

To learn more about the St. Mary’s Assyrian Church of the East Youth Group, visit their Facebook Page

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