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Assyrian Fest returns to Turlock fairgrounds
Assyrian festival
The Assyrian culture will be highlighted at annual festival set for Sept. 16-17 at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds (Photo contributed).

The annual Assyrian Festival will make its return to Turlock this weekend after a two-year hiatus because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

On Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 10 p.m. at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, 900 N. Broadway, Assyrian culture will be on full display with dancers, garbed in traditional costumes called jollee dkh’omala, performing traditional dances.

In addition, there will be music, games, raffles, an exhibition on Assyrian history and, of course, food.

Festival-goers can expect to find delicacies such as falafel, kabobs, dolma (stuffed grape leaves), boorakh (Assyrian egg rolls), and a variety of pastries, including kadeh and kalache (Assryian cookies), and baklavah.

While COVID has been the obstacle for festival organizers the past two years, this year’s festival presents another challenge.

“The obstacle this year is the heat,” said event coordinator Alex Pauls, a member of the Mar Gewargis Parish in Ceres. “It’s supposed to be very hot.”

According to the National Weather Service, the forecast calls for the high on Saturday to reach 105 degrees and 108 degrees on Sunday.

The event is sponsored by the California Diocese of the Assyrian Church of the East, which includes parishes in Modesto, Ceres and Turlock’s Mar Addai Parish, 830 Canal Drive.

According to Pauls, more than 20,000 Assyrians live in Stanislaus County.

"When we have these type of events, it just reminds of who we are, where we came from and, most important, what our culture is all about," said Doreen Esho. "And it allows us to keep that culture alive."

Assyrians, often misidentified as Syrians (Syria is a Middle East nation bordered by Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel and the Mediterranean Sea), were a part of the Mesopotamian civilization in what is now present-day Iraq. Today, Assyrians have no country of their own. And next to Chicago, Stanislaus County is one of the most Assyrian-populated regions in the U.S.