Hundreds of people gathered Saturday in Steele Indian School Park to celebrate at the Arab American Festival, the largest annual event of its kind in the state.
Local and out-of-state vendors lined the sidewalk as people entered. Music played in the background, welcoming visitors to walk toward the entertainment venue over the hill.
According to the event website, the mission of the festival is “to document, preserve, celebrate, and educate the public on the history, life, art, culture and contributions of Arab Americans.”
The festival continues from 4-9 p.m. Sunday at the park.
Saturday afternoon, Sarah Hussein, 24, sat at a table with flowers, decorations and designs to promote her business, “SARAH party designer.” She started her own party-planning business in January after observing the planning of her sister’s wedding.
“I will start in Phoenix and then I will go around the world,” she said.
At a nearby table, San Francisco-based King Fuad sold t-shirts and lanyards featuring the many different countries represented at the festival as part of his business, SF Sign.
Fuad said he learned about the festival online and decided this year he would attend to meet different people, sell merchandise and experience the festival. He said the mission of the celebration is important.
“To meet new people, to see new faces is great,” Fuad said. “We learn more about each other and our backgrounds.”
He printed 500 t-shirts for the festival and said they won’t be available online, only in-person.
“It’s important to come together,” he said. “To share thought, ideas, ideology, politics, religion is great.”
The First Arabic Baptist Church had a tent to welcome anyone who wanted to learn more about its mission. Yvonne Bishara, a member and wife of the pastor, said the church is made up of about 20 people who help the refugee and immigrant community.
Bishara said they have attended the festival for seven years. The church has been in service for 30 years with the mission to show love and help in anyway they can, she said.
Entertainment, American and Arabic food, hookah and shopping are all available at the two-day festival. Food included pitas, gyros, nachos and pretzels.
Admission is $5 from 4-6 p.m. and then increases to $10. Rows of seats offer visitors the chance to sit and talk with new people or take a moment to just relax.
“I believe it is a really cultural event and it has so much diversity,” said Ainor Elgamal, a staff person for the festival. “I think it’s a very good event for the community to experience new things.”
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