41st annual Arab and Chaldean Festival in Detroit draws small crowds

By Gus Burns | fburns@mlive.com MLive.com
Crowd at the 41st annual Arab and Chaldean Festival at Detroit’s Hart Plaza about 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

DETROIT, MI — An announcer came on stage in the recessed Hart Plaza amphitheater and requested that those within earshot come to see the performer preparing to begin at 5:30 p.m. during the 41st Annual Arab and Chaldean Festival.

The amphitheater was empty, except for one family, and few milled about in the gathering space near the concert bowl.

Two vendors, who asked not to be named, said the crowd had been slim all weekend for the festival that ran from noon to midnight on Saturday and Sunday.

“But people go crazy when the music comes on,” one said.

He expected the crowd to thicken as the evening progressed with popular Iraqi singer, Hosam Al Rassam, taking the stage Sunday night.

Only two vendors were open when the festival commenced about 12:30 p.m. Sunday and no attendees were to be seen.

A flyer for the event states the Arab and Chaldean Festival in Detroit is the largest in North America.

Two passing Detroit police officers said the crowds had been sparse throughout the day and night Saturday, although the

Arab Chaldean Festival 2.JPGGus Burns | MLive DetroitOne of few customers to take advantage of the Bungee ride at the Arab and Chaldean Festival in Detroit’s Hart Plaza this weekend.

About eleven vendors set up at the entrance to Hart Plaza, though only two — La Feast, which sells Lebanese cuisine; and another booth selling Arab-style music CDs — seemed to have an Arab or Chaldean connection.

Childrens’ toys, African clothing, jewelry and car rims were being sold from other vendor booths.

Near a bungee device that costs $5 per ride, two employees laid on a ledge and the owner, Andy Saad, 40, of Ann Arbor sat in a camping chair beneath the shade of a tree.

He said he was on pace to lose money this weekend, having paid more to operate in Hart Plaza than he had made selling bungee rides.

“This is Hart Plaza in Detroit; it should be busy,” Saad said, adding that he remembered attending the festival 10 years ago when it was busy with vendors and patrons. “I’m not sure what’s going on.”