TURLOCK, Calif. — The aroma of shawarma, dolma, and kebabs are coming to the Turlock fairgrounds once again for the Assyrian Festival.
Heading into its fifth year of celebrating the food and culture of the Assyrian people, the festival draws thousands to the fairgrounds for two days of festivities.
“It’s kind of like a big party…It’s kind of like a big Assyrian wedding,” said Father John Piro, spokesperson for the Assyrian Festival.
“It is like a big weekend picnic party,” he added.
Piro said the nearly five-year tradition came about due to the planning and encouragement of Bishop Mar Awa Royel of the St. Zaia Church in Modesto.
“Really, this has been his idea from the get-go,” Piro acknowledged.
The festival in Turlock has served as a way to get the Assyrian and the non-Assyrian communities in the Central Valley together for an immersion in Assyrian culture, much like similar festivals do in L.A. and San Jose.
“Whereas those have been more Assyrian food festivals, our focus was always to call it just ‘Assyrian Festival’ to promote the culture, the heritage, [and] the traditions of our people rather than just a food festival,” Piro said.