The fate of this year’s Dearborn Arab International Festival is in doubt.
At a city council study session Thursday night at , Mayor Jack O’Reilly said that the three-day festival, which began in 1995, costs Dearborn about $59,000 each year. Given the , officials said it may be too costly this year.
The costs are primarily for staffing to pay for and public works employees.
Fay Beydoun, the executive director of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, said she has put in a permit to hold the festival on June 17-19, but city administration may not approve it.
“We need a great reduction in cost to support it,” O’Reilly said.
At the session, Beydoun passed out a report by Michigan State professor Daniel J. Stynes that says the Dearborn Arab International Festival has a $7 million impact on the community.
Beydoun said she is willing to work with the city to cover the costs, but that the nonprofit is struggling. The festival has lost several sponsors in recent years, including automakers Chrysler and General Motors, and vendor fees and carnival proceeds generate little revenue.
On its end, the city also is exploring other options, including having the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office handle security for the event.
Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon presented two options: having the county take over all public safety for the festival, or, more preferably from the county’s perspective, have the sheriff’s department work with the Dearborn police.
Mayor O’Reilly also suggested that the festival could move to another site, one that would not require a busy street to be blocked off, unlike the festival’s usual location on Warren Avenue.
As is, the festival is a staff-intensive project for the Department of Public Works.
Council members also urged Beydoun to look for other sources to help fund the festival, including asking local businesses to donate money.
City council president Thomas P. Tafelski asked Beydoun if the festival could go on a hiatus for one year, but Beydoun said it would be “very difficult to do” because many sponsors already have been lined up for the event.
No decisions were made because it was an information-gathering study session, but Beydoun and several city department leaders said they would continue to look into ways to defray costs before the festival's permit comes up for review in the coming weeks.
Dearborn will have to make a decision soon on the fate of the festival. Police officials said they would follow up with the county, and other city officials said they would follow up with festival organizers with names of some private contractors who cold be of service.
The Dearborn Arab International Festival also made news earlier this week when announced he would return to the city to protest at the event. Jones' organization, Stand Up America Now, has created a Facebook event page for their June 17 visit to the Arab International Festival. He was arrested in Dearborn last month after refusing to pay a $1 peace bond that barred him from protesting near the Islamic Center of America.