DEARBORN — On the weekend of June 15-17, the 17th annual Arab International Festival will be held in Dearborn on Warren Ave. The event, which is organized by the American Arab Chamber of Commerce (AACC) is traditionally a festival that transforms 14 blocks of Warren Avenue, between Schaefer and Wyoming, into a cultural celebration that includes entertainment, food, games and merchandise.
While the AACC states that the event has drawn over 300,000 people from all over the world, it has received heavy criticism in the last few years as it has been an attraction site for anti-Islamic missionaries who have arguably incited tension and aggression during the festival, even leading to lawsuits with the city regarding the handling of the situation by Dearborn Police.
Mayor Jack O'Reilly was in favor of moving the festival to another location earlier this year in order to avoid further confrontations. His suggestion to move the festival to the more closed location of Ford Woods Park, was rejected by the city council, who favored keeping the location on Warren Avenue under an agreement with both the city and the AACC that Dearborn Police would take a backseat at the event and allow Wayne County Sheriff's office to provide security.
"The Wayne County Sheriff's office will ensure the safety of the people in the neighborhood as well as the safety of all the attendees," stated Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad. "Along with Dearborn Police, we will have more than enough officers to handle all public aspects of the festival that weekend."
Khalil E. Hachem, the Director of Communications at the AACC says that despite these negative setbacks, the festival still has the support of many Dearborn locals and businesses in the area. One of the organizations that will be supporting the AACC during this event is Impact International, who will be sending over 200 volunteers who are mostly located in southern states to help out on the weekend of the event. Impact International has been helping out with the festival annually for the last ten years.
"We have the support of hundreds of businesses, sponsors, food vendors and participators. We also have the support of the Warren Avenue business district," Hachem stated.
Many of the businesses located on Warren Avenue remain open despite closed traffic for the festival in hopes that they can draw visitors into their stores. Last year, The Arab American News reported that many business owners who were located within the festival boundaries were displeased by the yearly event, as it has a negative effect on their businesses. However, many other businesses such as restaurants located outside of the festival but within close proximity have noted that the event impacts their business greatly, as many locals and tourists end up dining at their facilities either before or after they visit the festival.