Church festivals are known for their food. Chivetta's chicken, corn dogs and shawarma. Shawarma? If you have never tried one of the world's most popular street foods then you need to broaden your food horizons by attending Lebanese Festival at St. John Maron Church in Williamsville.
In their 20th year, the Lebanese festival at St. John Maron is a "Celebration of faith, culture, heritage through food," Father Elie G. Kairouz, pastor of the Maronite rite church, said. "The surrounding community wanted Lebanese food and that's how it started." The church community shares its heritage in an enjoyable and unique way, by offering delicious and authentic food, including tabbouleh, hummus, grape leaves, shawarma, falafel, spinach pies and many more Lebanese delicacies. Father Kairouz will be serving up the chicken shawarma himself. "Chicken, french fries and a pickle. It's delicious." Father Kairouz said.
The three-day festival runs from July 27 to 29 at 2040 Wehrle Drive, Williamsville. Admission is only $1. "It's kind of a typical festival, but it's unique because it's from Lebanon. Everything is from our Lebanese culture and religion," Carol Krestos said. For those with less adventurous tastes, there will be American food and beverages at the festival. Beer and wine from Lebanon will also be available.
Along with the food the festival also highlights traditional Lebanese dance. The Dabke is comparable to what most people would consider line dancing. It is also very common at a Hafleh, or party, for women and men to get up and free-style dance. "It's separate from the line dancing. You're kinda doing your own thing. Enjoying and getting into the heart and soul of the music," Krestos said. "The Americans will join into the dancing too. They don't know what they're doing but they love it."
"We have a lovely gift shop that has some very unique items in it," Krestos said. "Some of the items are from that part of the world. We offer all sorts of fun things in the gift shop." A popular food item available in the gift shop is dry goods like spices and flour. These are items typically not available at the local supermarket. "Rose water and blossom water is special," Father Kairouz said. The festival organizers reach out to importers in order to bring in these special items for visitors to purchase during the festival.
Continuous music is provided along with raffles and bounce houses.
For more information regarding the festival, call 716-634-0669 or visit www.stjohnmaron.org.