This year will mark the 27th year of the Lebanese Festival, a cultural celebration of all things Lebanon hosted by the St. Ignatius of Antioch Maronite Catholic Church in Washington Twp. Throughout its years of operation, the festival has become famous for its food offerings, which include Kafta, Falafel, Chicken Shawarma and more. These staples will be offered at the festival’s drive-through event.
“We wanted to see how we could be creative,” said Father Alex Harb of the St. Ignatius of Antioch Maronite Catholic Church. “How can we do something to keep our festival still around? We were speaking with other churches, asking about their plans, and we’ve been talking since March. So, we decided that doing a drive-through is something that we could do safely.”
Father Harb has also noted the importance of community during this time, and he believes that festivals like his can help overcome pandemic fatigue.
“People have gotten tired of not going out, and they’ll be very careful for a few months or a month, and then they’ll stop being careful,” said Father Harb. “So, finding creative methods to fight the fatigue is helping us, and I think that offering a socially-distanced carryout version of this festival is a step in the right direction.”
To come up with the safest and easiest menu to execute, organizers steered clear of items that would require excessive hands-on contact, like sandwiches, and opted to go with cuisine that could be grilled outdoors.
So, what’s on the menu this year? Festival-goers can look forward to devouring the following Lebanese cuisine at the drive-through event:
- Kafta Platter: Freshly ground beef sirloin seasoned with salt, pepper, allspice, onions and chopped parsley, shaped and grilled over an open flame and topped with hummus. ($12)
- Chicken Shawarma Platter: Chunks of marinated chicken served with garlic sauce. ($12)
- Falafel Platter: Patties of ground chickpeas and fava beans with parsley and sesame seeds, fried in 100 percent vegetable oil and topped with Taratora. ($12)
- Hummus dip and pita bread: Dip made with ground chickpeas mixed with garlic, tahini and lemon juice. Served with a loaf of pita bread. ($4)
- Rice and Lubyi: Green beans with tomato sauce. ($4)
- Walnut Baklawa: Filo dough with walnuts. ($2)
- Nammoura: Made with Semolina flour and simple syrup. ($2)
Each platter comes with one loaf of pita bread, rice, Lubyi and Salata (Middle Eastern salad). Soda and water are also available for purchase.
Guests can either pre-order their meals on the Lebanese Festival’s website or order at the drive-through event. Cash and credit cards will be accepted.
This year, the drive-through festival will be taking place at 5915 Springboro Pike in Miami Twp., the church’s former location, and guests will have two options upon entering the drive-through. Those who have already pre-ordered their meals online will simply be routed directly to the parking lot where they will be asked to text their last name to the phone of someone working at the food booth so that their food can be brought to them. Guests who did not pre-order their meal will be directed to the food booth where they will order their meals from their cars. To keep the event safe, guests are asked to stay in their cars while in the drive-through.
Due to social distancing restrictions created by the coronavirus pandemic, meal preparations for the festival will look a bit different this year.
“Most of the volunteering will be outdoors, and it’s in sections,” said Father Harb. “There are the people who are cooking on the grill and, normally, we have three girls next to each other, but now we’re going to have to space the grills out farther from each other so that it can be three separate people grilling without being too close.”
Gathering volunteers to create these meals has been a more difficult endeavor this year, as many fall into a high-risk category. To combat this, Father Harb has tried to find volunteers who already live together in order to minimize the risk of exposure.
“We’re trying to get people to volunteer from the same household, maybe two or three people from the same household. Because they’re adjacent to each other and live together, it’s not adding in any new risk.”
This year, 10 percent of gross sales from the drive-through event will be donated to Caritas Lebanon, a Christian relief organization offering aid to those affected by the recent catastrophic explosion in Beirut. Individual donations will also be accepted during the event.
HOW TO GO
What: Lebanese Dinner Take-Out
When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 29-30
Where: 5915 Springboro Pike, Miami Twp.
More info: www.thelebanesefestival.com