Take a look at this, and you’ll find out why so many folks head ‘way out east’ to attend this delightful festival – featuring food, music, and more …
No matter their background or native language, all kids are immediately attracted to an inflatable “bounce castle” – like this one, at the 34th “Middle Eastern Festival” at Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Even though Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church is located on the eastern edge of outer East Portland – after moving east to NE 164th Avenue in 2004 – that hasn’t stopped folks from attending the 34th Annual “Middle Eastern Festival”.
For the afternoon, and into the evening, folks crowded in the parking lot and stopped along the street to enjoy the September 18 festival.
Festival organizers Michel Teeny, chair Nabeel Hanna, and Robert Clark of the parish council, gather in the hall during the celebration.
In 1972, back when the church was located in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood, members of St. George started the festival to celebrate their community’s unique heritage, and to share fun, food, and excitement with their neighbors – while raising money for church projects. So explained Michel Teeny, one of this year’s organizers.
“I love standing right here, seeing the fun people are having – but, most of all, smelling the delicious food cooking,” Teeny exclaimed. “But, not as much as I’ll enjoy eating it later!”
The savory smell of schwarma being prepared summons guests to the outdoor food area during the festival.
By involving the neighbors, Teeny told us, the church hopes thereby to involve the greater community with their church family. “And, we bring in our sister parishes to be involved here, too. It strengthens our communities, as we support each other.”
In addition to church’s own members, contributions for the silent auction come from many businesses in outer East Portland , Teeny observed. “I get to talk with them and meet them; they are happy to participate. They seem to enjoy seeing their items getting bids – and we’re happy to help them get better-known in the community.”
In the church’s sanctuary, Capella Romana performs in concert.
Throughout the afternoon, many people took tours of the beautiful church – viewing beautiful icons, painted by Russian iconographer Dmitry Shkolnik, and learning about the Orthodox teaching on icons, as well as the history and faith of the Orthodox church.
“This event is a ‘big win-win’ for everyone,” Teeny concludes. “It builds goodwill, community relations, and it is also a fundraiser for our church. But the most important thing is getting together, having good family fun, and socializing.”
To learn more about this well-established faith community, see their website: CLICK HERE.
Parishioners, friends and neighbors mingle at the Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church’s 34th Middle Eastern Festival.
© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News