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Location: Birmingham, MI, United States

Councilman John Akouri, former Washington, DC Press Secretary & Capitol Hill Advisor, is President & CEO of the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

LEBFEST '07 Brings Thousands to Downtown Birmingham

The Forum & Link
By Suehaila M. Amen
(BIRMINGHAM, MI)...The Lebanese are a proud people with a heritage and history worthy of many honors and recognitions. A country rich with history, faith, and a land extraordinarily beautiful, Lebanon is the home to over four million residents with an additional several million expatriates having settled across the globe; from not only the Middle East and Asian regions but to South and North America and Africa to as far as Australia.
In Metro Detroit, where a large Lebanese population resides, there are many organizations which are dedicated to preserving their heritage, and culture while working to advance the Lebanese community, socially, economically, educationally, and religiously.
One of these outstanding organizations is the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce (LACC), an organization established in by several prominent Lebanese businessmen in Metro Detroit to promote business ties and advance the Lebanese business sector financially.
For LACC President and LEBFEST General Chairman, John Akouri, former Farmington Hills Councilman and a well-respected community leader, bringing LEBFEST to Birmingham was an idea that came about many years ago. "LEBFEST was a dream of mine whose seeds were rooted long ago," tells Akouri. "To see this dream come full bloom was personally rewarding to me and I am grateful to all who nourished and helped fuel the realization of this dream."
Akouri realizes the importance of bringing together the Lebanese as a people; united under one flag. "Lebanon has always been a refuge, an open home, for different religions, nationalities, and peoples," explains Akouri. "As southeast Michigan is home to so many Lebanese, LEBFEST offers not only a day for us to gather and rejoice in the splendor of our rich culture, heritage and traditions - but to also share these treasures with the thousands whom attended, both Lebanese and non-Lebanese alike."
LEBFEST was launched at an exclusive, by-invitation-only preview party the evening prior to the festival at the new Baci Salon and Spa in downtown Birmingham. Greeting each guest at the door were Baci creators Sam and FiFi Lachine, as Baci personnel offered champagne, hors'deuerves, and petite four throughout the evening while estheticians and masseurs offered mini salon treatments including paraffin wraps and mini massages as a treat to guests.
The preview party featured artwork by Lebanese American artist Stephen Deeb and music by harpist Diane Dunn. Nearly 400 of the Lebanese professional elite, community leadership and dignitaries including Lebanese Consul Bachir Tawk, Walsh College President Stephanie Bergeron and city of Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence.
"It was indeed an extravagant event," expresses Sami Abdallah, 22, a business owner and real estate agent in Metro Detroit. "The Spa is spectacular to say the least and the premier party was an exceptional way to launch LEBFEST. Highlighting local Lebanese artists and their works was a phenomenal addition to the already posh style of Baci's. It was impressive! The LACC hosts nothing less than first-class events."
On July 25, 2007 at 10:00 a.m., LEBFEST kicked off in Birmingham's Chene Park Square in the center of downtown. With artisan tents, delicious Lebanese cuisine vendors, and wholesalers sold Lebanese flags, pins, CD's, and paraphernalia which decorated tents throughout the park.
Birmingham, chosen for its central location within the metro Detroit area was a charming setting for this extravagant event. Though it drizzled for a brief moment, the sky opened and the heavens brightened as Lebanese and Non-Lebanese alike came together for a beautiful afternoon and evening of festivities and music.
"As a centrally geographic meeting point between east and west, the beauty of downtown Birmingham reminds many of our beloved Lebanese capital, Beirut," notes Akouri. "City officials and business leaders from across Birmingham welcomed LEBFEST with great enthusiasm and have already begun working with us to plan next year's festival."
A highlight of the event was the presentation of the key to the city of Birmingham to Akouri and the LACC. Paul W. Smith, a celebrated Lebanese American Radio personality served as the Festival Host Committee Chairman.
"It is always a pleasure to see the community gathering to celebrate their heritage. LEBFEST was a remarkable festival of culture, tradition, and family," tells Bachir Tawk, Consul of Lebanon in Detroit. "To see not only Lebanese, but Americans of Lebanese descent, and non-Arabs taking part in festivities was a significant moment for me. As a diplomat, I unconditionally support these events that bring together the community and preserve the heritage of our ancestral homeland."
Tawk looks forward to next year's festival, stating "We look forward to a longer celebration next year as opposed to a one day event. All in all, LEBFEST was phenomenal and I commend Akouri, the host committee, the LACC and its sponsors for hosting this festival and continuing to honor our heritage and traditions."
Event highlights included musical performances by Detroit Red Wings Singer Karen Newman, Usama Baalbaki, Amalia Kaddo and her Mediterranean Music Ensemble, Jimmy A & his Rat Pack Rollers, Ashley Peters (granddaughter of singing legend Odette Kaadou), and a cultural Lebanese dance performance by Layalina Dance Troupe of Folklore and Debkeh.
"It was an extraordinary sight to see as Christians, Muslims, and Druze danced together, hand in hand during the debkeh, united as Lebanese," notes Elie Naim, an Electrical Engineer and festival attendee. "It was a fantastic event that brought the Lebanese community from all over the metro Area together."
Festival booths included Mezza Grille, Big Boy, M. Shatila Pastries, Artist Adnan Charara's Gallerie Camille, ORA / Axcent Scandinavian Watch Company, Baci Salon and Spa, and the U.S Army, among others.
A multitude of dignitaries were present at the festival kickoff including Dearborn Heights District Judge David Turfe, Lebanese Consul Bachir Tawk, Warren City Clerk Richard Sulaka, Oakland Probate Judge Linda Saoud Hallmark, State Rep. Chuck Moss, Circuit Court Judge David Allen, Lebanese American Club of Michigan President Chawki Gemayel, United American Lebanese Federation President Walid Mourad, Wayne County Executive Robert A. Ficano Senior Advisor Wassim Mahfouz, Michigan House of Reps Policy Analyst Kenwah Dabaja, Jordanian Consul General Habib Fakhoury, American Jewish Committee Director Sharona Shapiro, Armenian Assembly of America Edgar Hagopian, Turkish American Cultural Association of Michigan President Didem Seyhoglu, and Michigan Food & Beverage Association President Ed Deeb among many others.
"LEBFEST could not have happened without the generous contributions of so many including our sponsors, partners, volunteers, performers, staff and of course, The Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce," tells Akouri.
To learn more, visit
www.lebanesefestival.org

JOHN AKOURI ONLINE NEWSROOM 'We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity. We will not tire, or rest, until the war on terror is won.' -- PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH Add to end of above"line without paranthesis when wanting to loop sound (( loop="-1">