Winter in Vardenis

As I uploaded some new pictures today I realized I completely forgot to write a post about Winter in Vardenis. Better late than never…

In late February the town was slightly abuzz (as abuzz as it could be) about a special event. There would be no school the next day because of Winter in Vardenis. Not to be confused with a snow day, Winter in Vardenis is a sportish exhibition thing at the stadium here in town.

Since there are almost no organized activities here, I’d never been to Winter in Vardenis, and it just sounded funny, Laura and I both went together to experience it. My, what a site.

As we approached the stadium I thought to myself, “Wow, this is the first time I’ve ever seen the dilapidated stadium being used for anything other than a pasture.” There were some cars parked outside and lots of young men milling around. There was a guy aggressively riding a horse in the snow as everyone else watched. Inside the ancient entry way the scene unfolded to unveil even more akhbers (bros). There were a lot of people. Music was being blasted by a sound system precariously setup on a table with wires running through the snow.

It was pure mayhem

I guess the idea is that each school had a delegation. Soon a bus arrived from the 4th school and 30 kids and teachers jumped out. Hmm..okay, what about the rest of the school? The schools gathered in clusters and held little signs proclaiming which schools they were. Some chanted.

4th School, the most enthusiastic and cohesive. But I don't really under stand who they were cheering for.

The scene on the field was equally interesting. Several little stations were set up, denoted by huge signs. There were stations for arm wrestling, wrestling, kettleball lifting, and potato sack races. We both thought that the participants would be from the schools, but we were proven wrong. Random young guys seemed to compete. There were also quite a few participants decked out in military fatigues. It made the event that much more confusing for us.

Worst job? Sign holding.

The first event was a cross country ski race around the perimeter of the soccer field. We watched in disbelief as the guys strapped on skis that were probably around before perestroika. The race was extremely funny to watch because it was basically a 400 meter dash on skis. The two guys battling for first place, one of them in full army garb, were literally just running with skis attached to their feet. The incorrectness of it all was great.

We stayed long enough to watch some of the other events. The wrestling featured kids who had no business wrestling each other. But who needs weigh classes? This is Winter in Vardenis! The arm wrestling was entertaining. A guy in the crowd had a terrible Armenian mullet. I had been staring at him off and on between events. Suddenly he took his jacket off and revealed his absolutely jacked upper body. He was going to thrash in the arm wrestling event. To top it all off, he looked way too much like Michael Bolton from Office Space.

Bolton destroyed him

After a while we had seen enough and decided to go. It was a fascinating and peculiar event. As I walked out of the stadium and looked again at the cars parked in the snow, I thought, “Wow, it looks like a high school football game Armenian style.”

Later we learned that it actually made the national news. How and why I am not sure. I still can’t really believe that it was a thing and that it happened. It was like a Soviet version of a county fair. Spectacular!

Insert Peace Corps propaganda here


4 Responses to “Winter in Vardenis”

  1. Wayne Burt Says:

    Kevin, this is real interesting. If this is a long standing event, I never heard of it. The only events that I’ve seen at the stadium were soccer, well futbul, exhibitions. Had I known, I would have gone and spent the entire day. Anything to get out of the Center for awhile.

  2. icenugget Says:

    It’s possible that it didn’t happen when you were there. They said it maybe had a hiatus for a few years. But I have never seen football exhibitions there. That would be interesting for me! I hear you about getting out of the ol’ NGO for a bit. That was another motivator 🙂

  3. Peter Says:

    Haha, mullet muscle arm wrestler. I wonder if he knows about that Sylvester Stallone movie….

  4. icenugget Says:

    Over the Top? Don’t forget Operation Over the Top at Humphrey’s Bar & Grill.

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