DEARBORN — An Arab American tent made its debut at the 38th annual Dearborn Homecoming festival, held at Ford Field Park the weekend of Aug. 4-6.
The tent, which featured both food and music, came about through the auspices of the Arab American National Museum and ACCESS.
“In 2015 and 2016, the AANM and ACCESS had the pleasure of participating in Dearborn Homecoming with children’s craft activities, information and henna art,” said Kathryn S. Grabowski, humanities programming coordinator for the museum, who volunteered at the tent. “While this year we continued to offer the aforementioned
activities, the inaugural Arab American tent offered cultural and halal food, entertainment, merchandise and more.”
Asked about the difficulty of encompassing the various Arabic cultures into one tent, Grabowski acknowledged that Dearborn residents have roots in several of the 22 Arab countries.
“We only offered one food vendor this year, being our first year,” she said, “but are already thinking about ways to diversify our offerings.”
This year, the Arab American tent featured cuisine from the Levant, including chicken and beef shawarma from Shawarma Bash on Michigan Avenue.
It also featured music from Mazaj, described as “Classic Rock/ Arabic”; Laith Alattar, who performed on the Oud; and Jad’s Entertainment Group, which played Arabic pop/Dabke.
Both Mazaj and Laith Alattar soothed the crowd with soft sounds and calming rhythms, while Jad’s Group was noticeably upbeat. Once Jad’s Group began to play its up-tempo music, the crowd began dancing in circles and holding hands with one another for hours in true Dabke fashion.
“We were so fortunate to have Jad Soudah, a well-known local entertainer and entrepreneur, working with us on this event,” Grabowski said. “Jad partnered with us by selling food from his great restaurant in West Dearborn, Shawarma Bash. He also provided the sound equipment for the event and his amazing talents through his Arabic pop/dabke band, Jad’s Entertainment Group.”
She added that the various musical acts got the audience dancing and celebrating together.
“There are few events in the community that really bring together people from many different countries of origin in this way,” she said. “It was harmonious and a lot of fun.”
The Arab American tent wasn’t the only cultural attraction at the festival. It also featured a Polish American Shelter, which served stuffed cabbage, pierogis and Kielbasa sausage provided by Veronica’s Catering; and an Italian American Shelter that served gelatos, cannoli and pizza from Sal’s Pizza and Café.
Other Dearborn homecoming events included a special All-Star Day, held 9 a.m. to noon on Aug. 4. Children and adults with special needs came out to enjoy carnival rides, face painting and a dance party with music coming from Mark Demers and Lil’ Jimi Dearborn.
The festival also included six food trucks, carnival rides, a hula hoop contest and a corn eating contest, among other activities. The Dearborn Fire Department handed out free corn on the cob throughout the weekend.
This year’s Homecoming debuted a new event called the “Paint out in the Park. Street Artists’ competition”, which involved the creation of 32 pieces of art on 4′ x 8′ wood boards over the course of the weekend. After reviewing all the artwork, a panel of three judges split the $500 award between two artists, Kyle Kitchen of Taylor and Sasha Corder of Lincoln Park.
Kitchen took five and half hours to complete his project, while Corder took two days to complete hers.
“The best part of these events is meeting new people and artists,” said Corder, who can be found on Facebook @tiedymndstudios.
Kitchen agreed. More of his art can be found @KKicthenArt on Instagram.
About 20 of the boards, including the two winners, will be displayed in the Sisson Art Gallery at Henry Ford College from Aug. 24- Sept. 28, as part of an exhibit called, “Tag you’re it…Outside Art moves in.”
On Friday night on the main stage, the band “Sunglasses After Dark,” closed with an acapella version of David Essex’s “Rock On”, followed by a cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Runnin’ Down a Dream.”
Saturday night, after the main event of the weekend, Dennis DeYoung and the music of Styx closed with “Come Sail Away” as a rapturous crowd danced under fireworks for about 15 minutes, celebrating their community.
Prior to the main event on Saturday night, Mayor Jack O’Reilly told the crowd that no tax dollars go toward financing Dearborn’s Homecoming and that it is supported entirely by event sponsors.