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LebFest Promises Good Times for All

By Nick Meyer
Friday, 07.25.2008, 11:18pm

Lebanese PartyBIRMINGHAM — The second annual Lebfest will descend upon Birmingham, Michigan for a two-day celebration of Lebanese culture.

Running from noon-10 p.m. on Friday, August 1 and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, August 2, the festival is expecting big things with its impressive lineup of attractions.

Both food and entertainment will be plentiful at the event, which features big-name guests such as Michigan lieutenant governor John Cherry and his wife Pamela Farris, who is Lebanese;Michigan Secretary of State Terry Lyn Land; Motown singer Martha Reeves; and former Detroit Lions star Lomas Brown, who is the festival's 2008 Grand Marshall.

"The event was an overwhelming success last year," said John Akouri, chairman of the festival. "We saw considerable diversity last year and that was the nice thing about it. Everyone loves all things Lebanese, including the food, the entertainment, and the music."

Akouri stressed that the festival is for anyone who likes to have a good time in a family-friendly atmosphere and that people of all backgrounds are welcome. He also talked about why Lebanese culture is important to the area.
"Lebanese Americans have been in America for over a century and our culture is very well-known," he said. "The Lebanese community is definitely a part of the fabric that makes up the mosaic of the city of Detroit."

Attractions at this year's festival include performances by international superstars Bassam Saleh and Usama Baalbaki, Detroit Bellydance, New York comedian George Saba, oud virtuoso Karim Badr & friends, an ethnic bazaar and market, and an after party at the Community House Terrace Café.

Two other events at Lebfest will celebrate two recent examples of Lebanese contributions as well.

Popular author Habib Chamoun will be on hand signing copies of his book "Negoiate like a Phoenician" Friday and Saturday on the festival grounds. The book has received rave reviews from the Harvard Business School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology among other places.

Chamoun, who was born in Mexico but is Lebanese, wrote the book to transmit the ancient Phoenicians' expertise in negotiations to today's sales professionals. The Phoenicians have long been known for that ability so Chamoun researched exactly what made them so good at it.

"The Phoenicians were very open-minded and flexible, that's what made them so successful, they could mix with everybody," said Chamoun. "The had respect for women, religious tolerance, and they respected differences. That's how you treat people in a business environment; you inject humanity, care about the person and care about the other."

The book has been presented in 15 different countries and has received warm welcomes on college campuses.

While the Phoenicians were last prevalent around 300 B.C., many Lebanese people identify themselves as descendants of them and take pride in their accomplishments, such as when they became the first society to make extensive use of the alphabet. Chamoun talked about the Lebanese connection and his book.

"Many people connect to Lebanese culture through food. If you go to a restaurant and you eat, it's like culture. This book is connecting Lebanese through reading and through culture; it's another level, more intellectual, and I'm really happy about it."

In addition to the book signing, the film premiere of Deborah Harse's documentary "Marathon Beirut, For the Love of Lebanon" will take place on Sunday, August 3 at 12:30 pm at the Landmark Maple Art Theatre in Bloomfield Twp.

Space is limited to the first 400 people for the premiere of the movie, which was shot in November-December 2006 and November 2007. The film tells the story of the aftermath of the war and how the Beirut Marathon Association chose not to cancel the event but to carry on as a tribute to the resilience of the Lebanese people.

Admission for the festival is free and several children's attractions are also planned including a play area, games, and clowns, so stop by for a taste of what Lebfest has to offer in 2008.