DEARBORN – After the great turnout for the “Suhoor Festival” in Dearborn last year, the capital of the Arab American community is expected to witness a variety of activities in different places during the coming month of Ramadan nights.
The city of Dearborn announced that it will be facilitating “Ramadan Nights” in the downtown of West Dearborn. Also, a local Arab American doctor is in the process of organizing an event of an oriental nature to attract families to the Iftar and later at night for Suhoor as well, in addition to spiritual and social activities that are associated with the holy month, which is expected to commence on Wednesday, March 22 and end on Friday, April 21.
Dearborn Mayor Abdullah H. Hammoud told The Arab American News that the city decided to facilitate “Ramadan Nights” events Thursday, Friday and Saturday to provide the public a safe and secure space for the nightlife gathering during the holy month of Ramadan, as well as highlighting the renaissance of the downtown in West Dearborn.
The festival will take place along West Village Drive, between Mason and Monroe Streets on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights throughout the holy month, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Hammoud emphasized that this event does not aim to disrupt any of the other Ramadan events in Dearborn. Wishing “success to all”, he pointed out that what distinguishes the municipality’s activity from other Ramadan activities is that it will provide a secured public space open to visitors for free and will include food trucks in one location equipped with amenities and protection from the cold weather, in addition to being close to a wide variety of local restaurants and cafes.
Hammoud explained that the “Ramadan Nights” will include — in its debut — about 15 food trucks, bonfires and benches, in addition to igloos for protection from the cold weather, in order to create an intimate environment that enables individuals and families to enjoy Ramadan nights with relatives and friends, in a safe and comfortable environment.
While the city of Dearborn has set a $1,000 fee for the food trucks that are wishing to be included in the new event, it will allow neighboring restaurants to conduct business as usual and remain open till 2 a.m. throughout Ramadan without any additional fees.
In addition, the “Ramadan Nights” event will be admission free for all visitors.
Hammoud indicated that his administration seeks to ensure the principle of equal opportunities for the owners of fixed and mobile restaurants all over the city, stressing that the food trucks participating in the “Ramadan Nights” will be exclusively from Dearborn.
He said that, so far, the city received more than 50 requests from food truck owners, but only 15 of them were given the permits to participate in these “Ramadan Nights”, noting that Dearborn police will undertake the task of providing public security and safety during the event.
Ramadan Levantine (Shamiat) events
For his part, Dr. Opada Alzohaili is in the process of organizing and coordinating with Dearborn for a Ramadan event of a Levantine nature (Shamiat), during Friday and Saturday throughout the holy month, starting from fast breaking times throughout the Suhoor, in a secured area at 5250 Auto Club Drive in Dearborn.
Alzohaili, who is of Syrian origin, confirmed that the focus of his event will be on providing a family atmosphere and Ramadan food with authentic Syrian cuisine, with spacious heated tents for a long and comfortable family stay, in addition to reviving and facilitating some Ramadan traditions in the Levant.
“There are many good activities in the Dearborn area during Ramadan, but they are missing a comfortable atmosphere and amenities for spending time with family, friends and relatives reflecting on the spirit of the holy month,” Alzohaili said. “That is why we have taken this initiative in order to provide the community with such a unique activity.”
Alzohaili, who is a part owner of the building at the aforementioned address, said a large heated tent that seats about 600 visitors would be erected in the huge parking lot adjacent to the building that will accommodate thousands of vehicles. There will also be special places for performing prayers, as well as areas of about 200 square feet for every food provider participating in this event, which will include a maximum of 10 vendors.
He also said that his event will impose an admission fee of $2 per person and a vendor participation fee of $2,500, explaining that part of the proceeds will be donated to the earthquake victims in Syria.
Alzohaili praised Dearborn for its cooperation and guidance for the event, pointing out that city officials have expressed their readiness to provide the support needed, even though the event does not require any permits, as it’s taking place on private property.
“The role of the city will be limited to inspection to ensure the conformity of the event to the existing and relevant ordinances,” he said.
He added that he intends to hire a private security company to manage the event and the safety of the attendees.
“We have contacted a retired police officer from the Dearborn police force to explore this issue further,” he said.
Alzohaili stressed that the event may become an annual tradition if this year’s activities are successful.
“As everyone knows, the month of Ramadan creeps into winter 10 days every year, and if we succeed this year in securing comfortable heating inside the large tent, we may continue and build on this success in the coming years,” Alzohaili said.
The city of Dearborn will also be on the lookout for the fourth edition of the “Suhoor Festival”, which will be held for the second year in a row in the parking lot adjacent to Sears at the Fairlane Mall. But, this year the Suhoor Festival will be at a higher admission fee and higher cost to participating vendors in order to cover the cost of the anticipated expensive construction materials and labor wages.
Hassan Chami, founder and organizer of the Suhoor Festival, told The Arab American News that the festival activities will take place on schedule during Ramadan this year.
Chami, who is of Lebanese origin, expressed his full confidence that the event will attract more investors and visitors this year, after the huge success it achieved last year, and in light of the thirst of the American Muslims in the region to participate and enjoy the social and spiritual atmosphere of the holy month.
According to Chami, the area of the festival, which exceeds 75,000 square feet, will include five heated and enclosed giant tents covering about 50,000 square feet, where food vendors and other activities will be held, except for food trucks that will operate in the open space within an area of more than 25,000 square feet.
He said the festival organizers raised the fees for the food trucks to $2,800 per truck, and the fees for the rest of the participating vendors to $1,800, while sellers of Islamic goods and clothing who have existing contracts with the organizers of the festival will be allowed to participate without any charge.
He also said that the admission fee will be raised from $1 to $5 per person, and to $10 per family.
“Individuals and families can buy tickets from the festival’s website, print them in order to scan them on the scanning devices at the entrances of the festival,” he said. “Or, they can buy them with cash at the festival entrances.”
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