Ali Mohammed, 3, center, and Wasay Syed, 4, ride a camel from Indian Creek Camel Farm during the 13th annual International Festival at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.
The International Festival at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo is a cultural celebration, rich with diversity, food, games, exhibits, and crafts.
But organizers say this year’s event has a special meaning as the center was able to host its 13th annual festival despite an arson nearly a year ago that closed the center and mosque for nearly six months.
Cherrefe Kadri, the Islamic Center’s president, said the festival draws many visitors who wish to celebrate the area’s rich diversity.
“It is important to us and it is important to the greater Toledo community,” she said. “I think all of our friends and neighbors were happy when we opened back up, and they are certainly happy to be here with us. We are thrilled to host everyone.”
The center at 25877 Scheider Rd. in Perrysburg Township was set afire by an arsonist Sept. 30, several weeks after last year’s two-day festival, which organizers say attracts about 10,000 visitors.
Because of extensive damage, weekly worship services and other activities were held in other locations until March, when most of the repairs were completed.
Randolph Linn of St. Joe, Ind., pleaded guilty in federal court in Toledo to setting the fire in the mosque’s prayer room. He was sentenced in April to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $1.4 million in restitution to the mosque and its insurance company.
The festival began Saturday and runs from noon to 6 p.m. today. Admission is free and parking is $3.
Activities start at $1, are available to kids and adults, and include a climbing wall, trampoline, zip-line, pony and camel rides, petting zoo, and children’s fun center.
Lynda Nyce and her son, John-Paul Yoder, 7, traveled from Bluffton, Ohio, in Allen County to attend the festival.
Ben Weider, 13, ties his shoes after exiting the prayer room. Visitors to the International Festival, which continues today, can visit the mosque, which was refurbished after being damaged by arson in 2012.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the broader community to understand what the Islamic culture is like and that it is multifaceted. It is just not one nationality or one country,” said Ms. Nyce, a sociology professor at Ohio Northern University.
She said she likes the festival because there are things for both adults and children to enjoy — especially the food, which features cuisine from many countries, including Turkey, Pakistan, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Syria.
John-Paul said he used tickets purchased by his mom to jump on the trampoline and descend the giant inflated slide.
Pausing as she contemplated plopping down $6 for the five-minute camel ride, Tima Perrin, a Toledo resident who belongs to the Islamic Center, praised the event for the positive exposure it gives her community.
“I am not any different than any other people who are here. We are regular people. We like to do the same things,” she said. “I am very proud of the community. I am very proud of who I am.”
Safa Ghazali of Sylvania had a mix of hand-crafted fabric pieces for sale in the festival’s main tent. Made entirely of cotton, they could be used as pillow cases, or be framed and hung on a wall.
She said the festival is a great place to taste authentic cuisine from many different countries as well as see arts, crafts, and jewelry from many nations.
“I love it that people come here to support us. We have so many things from our culture and ideas. I feel like we are connected,” she said.
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.