Stuffed into a freezer in southwest Las Vegas are 3,500 kibbee balls, a traditional Lebanese morsel that took 12 women several days to painstakingly prepare, along with 4,000 stuffed grape leaves. Meanwhile 12 pounds of minced garlic, 700 bags of pita bread and 500 pieces of kaak—a specialty bread straight from Lebanon—are also on their way to St. Sharbel Mission (pictured) for the sixth annual Lebanese American Festival from October 11-13.
“They’ll be frying their hearts out the days of the festival,” event organizer Juliette Hanache says. Last year the celebration (LebaneseAmericanFestival.org) drew more than 6,000 people, and workers could be seen roaming the food tents, shouting orders into walkie-talkies for more tabbouleh or shawarma.
The festival is a fundraiser for St. Sharbel, a Maronite Catholic church, but it is well attended by the Valley’s sizeable Middle Eastern community, regardless of religion. With Lebanon still scarred by sectarian violence, the interfaith fellowship during the festival is not lost on Hanache, who describes the donation of baba ghanoush by a local Lebanese Muslim as akin to receiving a million dollars.
“They want this as a success,” she says. “And why not? This is the beauty of this country. We’re a melting pot.”