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Press Release
Only 6,000 Grape Leaves to Go as Three Generations Prepare for 75th Annual Mediterranean Festival

(August 2007) Austin, TX — Three generations of Central Texas families are bringing a taste of the Mediterranean to Austin. For 75 years, the Jabour, Dagar and Attal families have been the driving force behind the annual St. Elias Mediterranean Festival, a gathering of authentic Mediterranean food, music and dance. As part of their tradition, these families cook up their menu specialties from scratch every year, personally hand-rolling thousands of grape leaves, mixing up dozens of fresh batches of tabouleh, and baking enough baklava to feed an army. This dedication to heritage and remarkable food has been handed down from generation to generation, helping this feast become a celebration for more than seven decades. But the 75th anniversary year calls for a larger party, so the festival – historically held on the St. Elias church grounds – will literally pour into the streets, taking place across a full city block on 11th Street between Red River and Trinity streets.

One of Austin’s most delicious traditions, the Mediterranean Festival is scheduled for October 5-6. And this year, more than 10,000 visitors are expected to attend the event, one of Austin’s longest-running festivals.

The Mediterranean Festival began in the early 1930s as a fundraiser for St. Elias Orthodox Church, now a historic Austin building and landmark. Parishioners hoping to raise enough money to build the church would prepare their classic Lebanese, Greek and Middle Eastern entrees, then sell their tantalizing dishes at the historic intersection of Sixth Street and Congress Avenue in downtown Austin. Enough money was raised to build St. Elias, and the one-day event quickly became a tradition, eventually evolving in to a two-day festival.

“Those who have been exposed to this festival in modern times know it’s a really great event. It’s got a real life to it,” says David Jabour, president of the festival’s lead sponsor Twin Liquors. Jabour and his sister Margaret Jabour are chairing the Mediterranean Festival this year, but the Jabour family’s involvement stretches back to the very origins of the event. Each year, generations of family members prepare for the festival, and this year, David Jabour’s five-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, will help out, marking the fourth generation of Jabours working the festival.

Kathryn Dagar-Albarado of Dagar’s Catering is no stranger to the Mediterranean Festival either. Part of the Jabours’ extended family, the Dagars have been involved with the event from its inception.
“Our family commits to putting in a lot of hard work for the festival every year just because of our love for the church,” says Dagar-Albarado, who, along with her father, Albert Dagar, will roll nearly 6,000 grape leaves for the event this year, much like her grandmother did generations ago.

Understandably, one of the biggest draws for the festival is the food. Food booths operated by the families who support St. Elias Orthodox Church will be serving up authentic Lebanese, Greek and Middle Eastern delicacies. Highlights will include kefta, a grilled ground beef dish served with onions and parsley; hummos, a blend of chickpeas, garlic and tahini sauce; tyropita, a delicious pastry stuffed with delicate cheeses; spanakopita, pastry stuffed with a mixture of spinach and cheese; and kibbeh, a recipe of lean ground beef stuffed with bulgur, onions and pine nuts. The dessert menu is also a pleaser and will include dishes such as nammoura, a traditional dessert cake made with semolina, butter, spices and coconut; the time-honored favorite, baklava, a layered, honey-infused pastry with nuts, butter and spices; Greek kourabiedes cookies; Lebanese butter cookies; and Arabic coffee.

But the wonderful food is just the beginning. The inventive beverages available at this year’s Mediterranean Festival will give guests a great reason to toast. “What’s really fun, from a drink perspective, is that we’ll be featuring some exotic Mediterranean, Lebanese and Greek wines and beers,” Jabour says, adding that the festival bar will also be serving such unique cocktails as the pomegranate martini and a mojito with a Mediterranean influence.

However, the Mediterranean Festival is an event for the entire family, and children will love the Kids’ Oasis, a separate play area complete with games, activities and even a live camel. Additionally, the whole family will enjoy the exotic dance demonstrations and live music from Greek band Ikon and Middle Eastern chanteuse Zein Al-Jundi, who will perform both evenings during the event from two stages.

A mere $5 donation is suggested to attend the Mediterranean Festival, and in keeping with the tradition of the event, proceeds will go to St. Elias Orthodox Church Building Fund.

“It has really been a labor of love that has continued the tradition of the festival for 75 years,” Jabour says. “What I’m really looking forward to is an opportunity to expose the festival to those who have never experienced it before. It has been considered one of our best-kept secrets, but I think it’s time to share this great festival with everyone in Austin.”

Sponsors for the event include Twin Liquors, Absolut Vodka and Bacardi Rum. Named one of Central Texas’ top 10 food festivals by the Austin Chronicle, the St. Elias Mediterranean Festival takes place from 6 p.m. to midnight on Friday, October 5 and Saturday, October 6, 2007. For more information, visit