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Iranians in Ohio: Nowruz Celebration in Hilliard

Later on Friday we drove to Hilliard, which is in the Columbus area, to take part in a "Nowruz" celebration put on by "Iranians in Ohio" coordinated by Mr. Farzin Zarandi who was very pleased to sell us a ticket to dinner and the entertainment extravaganza that followed the meal.

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We looked up "Nowruz" on "Wikipedia" and learned that the literal translation for it is "New Day" and "is the name of the Iranian New Year, also known as the Persian New Year, which is celebrated worldwide by the Iranian peoples, along with some other ethno-linguistic groups as the beginning of the New Year. It has been celebrated for 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin and the Balkans. It marks the first month (Farvardin) in the Iranian calendar. Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed....Although having Iranian and religious Zoroastrian origins, Nowruz has been celebrated by people from diverse ethno-linguistic communities for thousands of years..."

Due to uncertainty about the weather on Friday, we decided to leave for Hilliard directly after the High School Debate Championship at the City Club so our two-and-a-half hour journey ended in the late afternoon. Accordingly, we went straight to a local library where we wrote about the City Club debate for our blog.

Since the "Nowruz" celebration was not scheduled to start until 8pm and dinner would not be served until about 8:30pm, we decided to find a fish fry (even though we are vegetarians we do like fish on occasion) to get something to sustain us in case dinner was late. Unfortunately, the fish fry we found on our iPhone was literally packed with people with a line going all around the interior of the church where it took place and the take-out section was quite comparable in volume. Nevertheless, we were in the mood for some fish so we pulled into "Burger King" where we enjoyed a fish sandwich (without tarter sauce-keeping an eye on the calories) and found a table where we could relax and read for a while.

About 7:30pm we drove over to the Makoy Center on Center Street where our evening event took place. Once again, Mr. Zarandi was very pleased to see us and told us to let him know if we needed anything in the course of the evening. Displaying great courtesy, he made sure that we had a seat at a table close to the dance floor and stage.

It was good that we had the fish sandwich because it made us feel more comfortable and less eager to eat thus we could focus on meeting people and making new friends. Once such person was a man named Moe who immigrated to the United States after the Iranian revolution in 1979. We told Moe how we stopped for a fish sandwich story in case dinner was delayed and he laughed and thought it was good thinking (although he recommended the fish sandwich served by "Wendy's" as opposed to "Burger King") because the buffet lines proved to be quite long. Moe told us that after he and his family arrived in the United States, they settled in Lexington, Kentucky and encountered nothing but positive treatment from other community members.

Not surprisingly, the Makoy Center was quite full with people who came from all over the region to spend time with other Iranians. There were older people there (many 1979ers like Moe) as well as people in their 20's and 30's who immigrated here from Iran within the last few years. Despite the lateness of the hour, there were young children accompanying their parents and even a couple of baby carriages.

At a table close to ours, there was a family who traveled all the way from Virginia to attend this celebration. They came here from Iran about 4-5 years ago and, as the father told us, their current status was "2 citizens and 2 green cards" while both of his daughters had MA's in the medical/engineering fields. The gentleman went on to say that one of his daughters along with himself were in Iran at the time that President Trump's initial travel ban was initiated and they were so glad when they finally got to return here to the United States.

Another person we talked to was a young man named Akrash who came here from Iran only ten months ago although his English was perfect. Tonight would be the 25th "Nowruz" celebration that he has attended and, in spite of his youth, he was already an engineer but was attending college in order to be certified in the United States.

As for the entertainment, it was provided by Mr. Shahram Shabpareh who is sometimes known as "the King of Persian Pop Music" and/or the "Father of Pop Music" in Iran. We talked to quite a few people about him and learned that he was living in California at the time of the 1979 Iranian revolution. Due to possible entanglements, he has never returned to Iran but has performed for Iranian audiences throughout the world and is still regarded as a superstar. In Iran his music is not officially sanctioned although if people really want to they can download it.

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We enjoyed the entertainment a lot; the best way to describe it (we think) would be "disco with a Middle East twist." No doubt about, the Iranian attendees absolutely loved Mr. Shabpareh and, even though his show did not start until 10pm, everyone was on their feet dancing enthusiastically as the rotating disco ball lamp cast rays of light.

Even though we did not arrive back in Cleveland until 1:34am on Saturday, we were glad that we made the journey because we learned, from the conversations that we had, that even though Iranians now living abroad are generally not happy with the current government of their native land they still believe that the U.S. should be open to working with it because western involvement brings with it the potential to improve conditions for the Iranian people. Many of those we talked to expressed hope that the Iranian nuclear treaty will open new doors along these lines.

Our conversations also indicated to us that even though Mr. Shabpareh's work is officially discouraged in Iran (he, himself is considered "too California") there are up-and-coming pop artists, in Mr. Shabpareh's tradition, who are, despite certain restrictions, still allowed to flourish.

And when it was time to eat, we had a great dinner composed of two different kinds of rice, a order of fish (we just had a hankering for it on Friday) all topped by kashkeh bademjoon which is a a delectable blend of eggplant and yogurt. Sadly, our "Burger King" fish sandwich prevented us from consuming as much of it as we would have liked to.

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC