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Reflections of a first timer’s experience at the Lebanese Festival

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This is a guest post by Mandy Benter, a Research Assistant with the Project. She often writes community spotlights for the newsletters.

A festival-goer poses next to an image of his relatives, Isabel and Ellis Zaytoun of New Bern, NC.

A festival-goer poses next to an image of his relatives, Isabel and Ellis Zaytoun of New Bern, NC.

This past Saturday, the Triangle Lebanese Association (TLA) may have held their 16th annual Lebanese Festival, but it was my first time witnessing the event. As a NC State graduate student, I rarely receive the opportunity to go out and enjoy the festivities in downtown Raleigh.  So, naturally, I jumped at the chance to represent the Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies.  The festival started off brilliantly, with plenty of sunlight and a little too much wind.  Luckily, packaging tape was acquired, and I was ready to inform the public of the new Cedars in the Pines exhibit.

However, as I directed festival-goers to the North Carolina Museum of History, I realized I was the one receiving an education.  The TLA dance troupes were amazing and their energy was infectious.  The talented second-graders on stage certainly inspired me to learn a few steps.  Subtly attempting my own version of the dabke, I was greeted by several visitors.  One man reminisced of the close-knit community in Concord, NC.  Dr. Raja Khalifa stopped by from the AUB Alumni tent and jokingly asked if I recognized him from his photo on the exhibit’s flyer.  A young festival-goer was pleasantly surprised that his relatives, Isabel and Ellis Zaytoun, appeared alongside our program’s insignia. It was a pleasure to interact and engage with such a proud community.

Visitors of all ages are spell-bound by the TLA dancing troupes.

Visitors of all ages are spell-bound by the TLA dancing troupes.

I have been honored to work with the Khayrallah Program for the past eight months, a program that was designed to “research, preserve, and publicize the history of the Lebanese-American community in North Carolina.” At the TLA’s 16th Annual Lebanese Festival, I saw that mission statement in action.

For more highlights from the festival, head to TLA’s Facebook page!

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