Experience the Lebanese Festival with plenty of culture to go around
By Emily Kaiser
Summer is a perfect time to relax, read a good book, enjoy the pool with the family and explore different cultures the Dayton area has to offer. Every summer, there are dozens of festivals. Some are dedicated to fruits, like the Strawberry Festival in Troy, some are dedicated to music and still others, like the Lebanese Festival, are simply to learn about a different culture. This type of learning has nothing to do with a lecture hall and a teacher, though. Think beer in one hand, fresh pastry in the other, wondering how the belly dancers move with such ease. Now that’s my kind of learning!
August 26, 27 and 28, St. Ignatius of Antioch Maronite Catholic Church will hold its annual Lebanese Festival. This summer event started as a one-day event in 1994 and now has a whole weekend dedicated to Lebanese culture. All the proceeds will help the church raise money to build a new facility.
The weekend will start off right on Friday at 6 p.m. with opening ceremonies. The national anthems of both the United States and Lebanon will be sung and officials from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will present the colors.
“Miami Township has embraced us from the start,” said Doug Simon, chairman of the event, who also notes the festival draws people into the community in positive ways. “We want people to enjoy some of the Lebanese culture—food, customs, dance and entertainment—and also try to help ourselves and build another building.”
Do not make this event a date by going to dinner beforehand. Save your appetite for the astounding and rare authentic Lebanese food. Along with your everyday pizza and fries, there will be kibbee, kafta, falafel, garlic chicken, shawarme (chicken or beef cut into thin slices inside a pita with tahini sauce) stuffed grape leaves, hummus, mountain bread with zahata seasonings and for something special and sweet, homemade pastries!
Thursday before the festival starts, someone makes the journey north to Deerborn, Mich. to pick up homemade Lebanese food. I thought to myself after hearing this, “Why, of all places, Deerborn?” It turns out, Deerborn has the largest Lebanese community in the country, which makes for a lot of authentic cuisine.
Claire Daoud, owner of Cedarland Restaurant and Bakery, will be at the festival making her famous mountain bread. Mountain bread is like thin pita bread with Lebanese seasonings.
“She’s an attraction because people in the Dayton area that like Middle Eastern food like her restaurant,” said Simon. “People love to come because she’s there.”
After you are full from the flavors of Lebanon, take some time to enjoy the entertainment. Dancing is a huge part of the Middle Eastern culture and the Lebanese Festival brings that to the Dayton area in full force. Conchi, a well-known belly dancer from Cincinnati, will be performing at the Lebanese Festival. Although the belly dancing may look like just a sexy dance to some, it is more than just that.
“It’s a cultural thing,” said DCP’s very own Maha Kashani, who appreciates the beauty of the dance and someone who can execute it.
Belly dancing, however, will not be the only form of dance being performed. Other ethnic groups have volunteered their time and talents to show patrons more about Lebanese culture.
While you are at the festival, take advantage and learn more about Lebanon. There will be a historical booth set up with information about Lebanon and its culture.
There is no need to get a babysitter that weekend, bring the kiddies along! There will be between eight and 10 rides provided by Murray Brothers as well as games.
Kids aren’t the only ones who will be playing. There will be a gambling tent for adults with games such as Blackjack and Texas Showdown. There are also other ways to win big bucks at the festival. The parish’s 2011 building fund raffle will be drawn for winners on Sunday, August 28 at 4 p.m. The first prize is $2,000, second prize is $1,000 and third prize is $500. Raffle tickets can be purchased for $5 each or $20 for 5 tickets.
A mass will also be held Sunday at 10 a.m. at the festival. Father Pierre T. Bassil will be celebrating the Maronite Catholic Mass. You don’t have to be a member of the parish to join and all are welcome.
End the summer with a bang and come enjoy what the Lebanese culture has to offer. Whether you stop by for a quick bite to eat, or make an evening out of it, the 2011 Lebanese Festival is sure not to disappoint.
Reach DCP freelance writer and editorial intern Emily Kaiser at EmilyKaiser@DaytonCityPaper.com.