Chaldean festival gets bigger and better

By Jennie Miller
C & G Staff Writer

SOUTHFIELD — The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce is set to host its fourth annual Chaldean Festival outside the Southfield Civic Center June 5-7.

But this year will be unlike any other, as changes have been made. A full carnival will join the cultural festival, bringing rides, games, music, dancing, food and entertainment center stage next weekend.

“We’ve been working for quit some time to get a midway — they’re going to close down Evergreen Road,” said Martin Manna, executive director of the chamber, which is located in Farmington Hills. He said the event has been moved up two months from previous years, it has been extended by an additional day, and big crowds are expected. “The lawn has been filled to capacity (in the past), and (we’ve estimated) more than 20,000 people over the two days, so we think that’ll be an easy number to surpass this year because it’s much, much bigger.”

Manna praised the chamber’s partners, who’ve helped make the event possible and expand its offerings even in these trying economic times.

“We’ve been blessed,” Manna said. “We have been very successful, and a lot of people come out and support us. The greatest thing is that in this economy, a lot of the things we’re doing are free. So if you can’t afford the rides (or the food), there’s plenty of things to do and look at that are free.”

The focus of the Chaldean Festival is not meant to be merely about fun and games, it’s also about understanding and embracing diversity.

“For our community, preservation of our culture is very unique,” Manna said, adding that Chaldeans are a minority in their native country of Iraq, and that the language they speak, Aramaic, is considered to be endangered by the United Nations. “This is an opportunity to keep our culture alive and share it with others, and as a lot of the participants are not Chaldeans, we can share our music, share our language, share our dancing and our food. … We are average Americans now, and we’re proud to be here, and we have a unique culture to share.”

There are 120,000 Chaldeans living in the metropolitan Detroit area, according to Lisa Kalou of the chamber.

“We have such a large community,” Kalou said, adding that it’s important for Chaldeans to distinguish themselves from the rest of the Arab population. “We have our own language and our own culture, and we would like people to understand that.”

The festival will be open 5-10 p.m. June 5, noon-10 p.m. June 6 and noon-9 p.m. June 7 on the front lawn of the Southfield Civic Center, which is located at 26000 Evergreen Road.

Evergreen will be closed to through traffic from Civic Center Drive to the north entrance of the Civic Center from 7 p.m. June 4 to 5 a.m. June 8. All businesses will be accessible via Central Park Boulevard. Parking will be available on both sides of Evergreen.

The festival is put on in partnership with the city of Southfield. Proceeds will benefit the Chaldean Community Foundation, a nonprofit charity.

“It is an affiliate of the chamber, which has been around now for six years,” Manna said. “It’s a coalition of Chaldean and non-Chaldean businesses in the metro Detroit area, and the foundation gives back to the community where Chaldeans are either served or a part of.”

For more information about the festival or the chamber, call (248) 538-3700 or visit