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Lebanese Food Festival is family affair: 'I roll the grape leaves and he bakes them'

'It's like opening your arms and... being part of the Lebanese family'
LebaneseFamily.jpg
Posted at 8:19 PM, May 13, 2022

GLEN ALLEN, Va. -- The 37th annual Lebanese Food Festival is this weekend at Saint Anthony Church in Glen Allen.

Eddie Shibley Sr. is the patriarch of one of the 300 families at Saint Anthony's.

Uncle Eddie, as he's called, has 5 children, 14 grandchildren, and 19 great-grandchildren.

At 93, Uncle Eddie is the oldest volunteer at the church.

"I was born on Addison Street, which was down Strawberry Street in 1929," he recalled.

Growing up, everything was Lebanese, Shibley Sr. said

"They spoke Lebanese to each other, but not to us; because they, they had a store," Shibley Sr. said. "I can say some words. Some bad words."

Shibley brought his culinary skills to the three-day festival from the beginning, working some days up to 9 hours.

He said he used "stay all day long" helping prepare some 30,000 meat, spinach and cheese pies and grape leaves.

This weekend you will find Uncle Eddie at the shish kabob booth where he works side by side with one of his daughters, Cathy George.

"I roll the grape leaves and he bakes them," Cathy George explained. "We start in February, and the challenging part is to get everything done in time, especially this last week."

Volunteers from the youngest to the elders work in one of three shifts during the festival.

Cathy George said the best part of the festival is the people.

"We enjoy having people here all the time. I mean, it's like opening your arms and welcoming being part of the Lebanese family," Cathy George said.

There is also live music and dancing at the festival. You can eat in the dining hall or grab a seat outside.

Hours for the Lebanese Food Festival are Saturday from 11 a.m. -10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.

Saint Anthony Maronite Catholic Church is located at 4611 Sadler Road in Glen Allen. Find more details at lebanesefoodfestival.com.