Lebanese Festival in Birmingham, Alabama

by Scott Cornell

The Saint Elias Maronite Catholic Church (stelias.org) in Birmingham, Alabama has hosted an annual two-day Lebanese Food & Cultural Festival since 1998. It takes place on a Friday and Saturday in April. The festival is open to anyone, offers free admission and includes authentic food and exhibits featuring a look at Lebanese culture. There are also other activities and entertainment.

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Food

The Lebanese Food & Cultural Festival features a wide variety of Lebanese dishes. At the 2011 event, the menu featured items such as lemon chicken, Lebanese salad, grape leaves, spinach pie and falafel sandwiches, as well as a variety of desserts. The food may also be ordered in advance for Friday lunchtime delivery to south side and downtown Birmingham locations. However, orders must be over $75 to qualify.

Heritage

A special exhibit highlighting the history of Saint Elias Maronite Catholic Church is set up in the Heritage Room. It also features Lebanese artifacts and cultural demonstrations. The church was established in Birmingham in 1910.

Events

The two-day event features a variety of entertainment. At the 2011 festival, this included a Lebanese band that performed each night of the festival, demonstrations of traditional Lebanese dancing, guided and self-guided tours of the church and a talk on the Church in the MIddle East. Merchandise is offered for sale, such as hats, shirts, coin dancing belts, cups and cookbooks, and there are silent auctions. The festival begins at 10 a.m. and runs until 9 p.m. each day.

Considerations

The festival raises money through its food and merchandise sales and silent auction items. Of the proceeds, 25 percent is donated to area charities. To date, about $220,000 has been donated back to the community. Parking shuttles operate from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. from the UAB Parking Lot 15R on 10th Avenue South, next to the Epic School parking lot, during the festival.