By Jocelyn Pedersen
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Food, music, dance, culture and traditional home-cooked Lebanese food once again comes together in Norman in the form of Middle Eastern hospitality.
The third annual Lebanese Heritage and Food Festival is set for Saturday and Sunday at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church, 500 Alameda St.
The event has grown each year and this is the first time the festival will span two days. Saturday, the festival begins at 11 a.m. and will end at 8 p.m. Sunday, the community is invited to join parishioners for Mass at 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. The festival will continue on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Authentic Lebanese cuisine will be served both days. The menu includes falafel, hummus, kebbeh, kafta, tabouli, stuffed grape leaves, chicken with traditional garlic sauce and baklava. To-go orders are welcome.
Each year at the festival, parishioners sponsor a bake sale featuring traditional Lebanese and American delicacies. There will be a children’s play area, arts and crafts, Lebanese souvenirs and gifts, Christian books and religious articles will be available at the festival. Raffle tickets for chances to win a cruise for two to the Bahamas will be availabe at the church or at the door the day of the festival. Other prizes include five $100 gift cards to La Baguette restaurant, a flat-screen TV and an iPad Mini.
As in years past, the Lebanese Student Association at OU will perform dabkeh — traditional dances from Lebanon. Additionally, the Lebanese Folk Dancers from Our Lady of Lebanon in Lewisville, Texas, will return to delight festival-goers. The Dazzlers modern dance troupe also will perform and there will be short 10-minute presentations titled “The Beauty of Lebanon” throughout the day.
Special guest, John Duncan, Ph.D., will give a talk at 5 p.m. Saturday about the humanitarian actor Danny Thomas who was born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz.
Like Thomas, who gave of himself to others, the 17 families in the congregation at Our Lady of Lebanon work hard each year to share their heritage with the community including all Christian denominations as well as friends of other religions.
“The festival is a wonderful way for Oklahomans to learn and experience Middle Eastern culture during our annual event,” said Jeremy Wance, Our Lady of Lebanon’s organist and choir director. “The cuisine is wonderful, the music unique and the blending of cultures important.”
Tarek Dina of Levant Technologies, one of the festival’s sponsors, invites people to come and experience it first hand.
“Hospitality is one of the distinguishing aspects of Middle Eastern culture,” Dina said.
Fr. Fadi Matni, Our Lady of Lebanon’s new priest, has been in Norman only a few months. This will be his first festival at OLOL and he said he’s looking forward to welcoming visitors.
“We want to invite visitors to experience Lebanese food and culture,” Matni said. “Everyone is welcome, as usual. I’m sure everyone will be happy. They will see me smiling and they will enjoy everything we’ve prepared for them.”
Matni said proceeds from the festival will benefit the church’s youth as the congregation plans to build a youth center. Funds also will be used to cover renovations to the entrance of the church to compliment remodeling in the nave which was recently heightened and beautified.
Festival sponsors including La Baguette, Tyler Media and Levant Technologies.
For more information, call the church at 401-3907 or visit the church’s website, maroniteok.org.
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