Watani Chicago Festival will donate proceeds to Gaza
There are 22 Arab countries in the world and this weekend Sandstone Events will host a festival in Bridgeview, Ill. to celebrate all of them at Toyota Park Aug. 22–24.
The Watani Chicago Festival is meant to bring Arab-Americans together and inform non-Arabs about Middle Eastern cultures. Sandstone Events will donate 20 percent of the proceeds from the Chicago Watani Festival to Palestinians in Gaza because of the current assault on the densely populated area, according to the event coordinator, Nesreen Ballut.
“As of right now, with the current situation in Gaza, it’s a bit tough to be very excited and joyous all the time, so we dedicated this opening event to Gaza,” Ballut said. “We’re also going to be setting up a program where we have prominent members in the community speak at the events and inshaAllah that will help raise awareness of what’s going on in Gaza and allow our community to come together as a whole.”
Representatives from Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR] and the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund [PCRF] are among the confirmed speakers at the festival.
Chicago and some of its surrounding suburbs have large Arab-American communities that aren’t represented well in the mainstream media. Watani is an Arabic word for my land and the three day event is meant to bring Arabs who live in America together.
According to a source familiar with the events planning said the festival cost more than $100,000 to put together. The three days of festivities will include musical acts and carnival rides. Amer Zahr, a Palestinian-American stand up comedian, will be the MC for the three day festival. Palestinian-American rapper Dub KMG, who released a song “Free Palestine” in July, and Palestinian-American singer Mary Hazboun are scheduled to perform during the first day of the event.
Chicago hosted a similar event, Arabesque, years ago. However, Arabesque was held at the Daley Plaza in the city’s downtown area, it was free and did not have carnival rides. Bridgeview, a Chicago southwest suburb, is home to thousands of Arabs and is a prime location to host an Arab festival, Ballut acknowledged.
Tickets are $15 at the door and children 5 years old and younger are free. The photo below has the schedule for all three days.