Conversation Reopened on Moving Dearborn's Arab International Festival
The City of Dearborn suggested that festival officials are discussing refreshing the annual event.
The idea of moving one of Dearborn's iconic events to a different location is again a topic of discussion amongst city officials.
Mayor Jack O'Reilly said Tuesday that talks would begin soon about moving the Arab International Festival from its usual spot on Warren Avenue.
"We offered this the last couple of years, and they were adamant about staying," O'Reilly said of festival organizers, led by the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.
However, O'Reilly shared that changes on the organization's Executive Board also meant a change in popular opinion on the subject of moving the festival.
Support for moving the festival centers around the fact that hosting the event at a closed site would protect the city from liability concerning protestors.
A Christian evangelist was kicked out of the festival by police in 2009. The man, Sudanese Christian Pastor George Saieg, later sued the city for violating his free speech rights by not allowing him to speak on public sidewalks and won.
If the festival was held at a closed site with set entrances, organizers could preclude anyone but festival attendees from entering.
“Dearborn fully supports the festival,” O’Reilly said in 2012. “It’s the location that is the issue.”
Festival organizers, however, have shared that hosting the event on Warren Avenue is important to the festival's goal of supporting local businesses along that strip.
In 2012, it was decided that if Wayne County would indemnify the city, thus taking full responsibility for primary security at the event, that the city would approve it.
However, O'Reilly said the conversation will be renewed this year as the AACC looks to possibly revamp the festival.
"This is a good time in this dialogue to refresh the goal of it," he said.
City Councilwoman Nancy Hubbard suggested Tuesday that the site should be located at Ford Woods Park—a move that has been supported by city officials in the past, as well.