Middle Eastern Festival

This year marked the final Middle Eastern Festival located at 40th and Sherman.  Next year, the church will be in a large new facility in Fishers:

Architectural Rendering of new church in Fishers

This was a bit bittersweet for me, as I had a great time as always, but it might also be the last time my family and I attend.  I have been a regular at this event since I first discovered it about 7-8 years ago.  Many people might not be familiar with this church, but there has been a Middle Eastern Orthodox congregation in Indianapolis since 1926. The original church is pictured here:

The current church dates from the Mid-Century Modern era of architecture:

The interior is swimming with stained glass, which will thankfully make the move with them to Fishers:

Of course no festival is complete without the food. I usually order the kafta kebab, which is minced lamb served with onions, parsley, and tomatoes in a fresh wrap:

The dessert table is particularly huge. I always spend way too much money here:

Finally, there is the dancing, which starts early and lasts for most of the night. My daughter is about to join the kids on stage here:

I will miss this festival in the city dearly, as I’ve found nothing that really compares to it.  It is a sign of the times as the suburbs begin to diversify.   I hope that the charter school that replaces this church can also be a long-term asset to the community.   They probably won’t serve delicious kafta kebobs, but our city needs great schools too.

Comments 14

  • There was a very similar and popular Greek festival that took place each year in Meridian-Kessler neighborhood before they built a new church in Carmel (3-4 years ago). I think the old church is now leased to Indianapolis Opera.

    • Yes, the home of the Indianapolis Opera is the former Greek church at 40th and Penn/Washington (by the generosity of Bill Oesterle.) They have an annual festival, too, Lobsterpalooza, this year on September 14. I’m not a shill for the Opera (but happily would be) just a neighbor who is happy to have a great local cultural institution in my neighborhood, where its events are within walking or biking distance, which coincidentally brings us back to the subject of this blog!

  • The same fate befell the Greek Festival a few years ago.

    Oh, well, we still have the Italian Festival on the southside (although it was cancelled for this year due to a change in leadership)

  • “It might also be the last time my family and I attend.” Are you boycotting Fishers, or is the festival just not worth driving that far?

    • Just logistics. I love the festival, but it will be quite a ways away from the places I normally go. One of the things I liked about it was I could usually round up some friends to go with us. That might not be as easy when it is a bit of a drive in each direction.

  • I definitely will not attend anymore because I do not believe in Fishers. I may get shot up there by someone who couldn’t stand living with a brown lawn for two weeks. Plus, I would have to spend more time in the car than the actual festival. Too bad…the Middle Eastern Festival will be missed for sure.

  • My family helped start this church after arriving from Lebanon. The festival was amazing this year!!

  • Does anyone know (ballpark estimates, or guesses) the breakdown of the groups who attend this church, in terms of ancestry? Are they mostly Lebanese/Syriacs, or Egyptian Coptics, or Armenian Apostolics (not usually thought of as Middle Eastern), or a little of each, or something else? I’m just completely unfamiliar of what Middle Eastern Orthodox even entails. I have a hunch that term “Middle East” is a whole lot newer than this church’s history.

    • The church was founded as a Syrian Orthodox Church. The original stained glass from the sign hangs above the northern door. Apologies for leaving out that detail. I do believe that people that attend the church hail from a wide range of countries. The two members that are also store owners in the City Market are Jordanian.

  • The new church is being built on the land of my childhood home.

    They tore down a historic dairy barn to make way for it.

    Very interesting to track the changes to an area that was nothing but farms and fields and a gravel pit when we first moved out there. We could play in the middle of 116th street and never worry about traffic.

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