SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Temperatures in the low 90s did not stop more than 4,000 people from coming out in the blazing sunshine to the fourth annual Halal Food Festival in Rowland Park on Saturday.
Mevla Nuredinoski, 24, of Carteret, said she came to the event for the first time this year because she had heard so much about it.
“I’ve heard about this for years, but this is my first time coming,” she said standing in the middle of a ring of 50 vendors in the grassy area of the park. “I’ve heard really good things from some important people (I know), and I wanted to come out and support the (Muslim) community. You get food out of it too, so that is a plus.”
Out of the total number of vendors, about half provided Halal foods, prepared properly under the Quran, the holy book of Islam.
Sponsored by the Muslim Youth Community Center, the event was first held in 2012 and is about supporting local halal businesses and providing a fun day for families, according to the organization.
Money raised from ticket sales at the festival goes to the organization’s sport programs and helping families in the communities, according to the group.
According to the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, the word “halal” simply means lawful or permitted.
Foods not halal, or not permitted in Islamic doctrine, include pork, alcohol, carnivorous animals, birds of prey and animals not properly slaughtered by Islamic method, according to that organization.
The other half of the vendors provided a variety of merchandise and services for a Muslim population, such as clothing, books and financial services.
There were also attractions and games for children.
Mevla’s sister, Seville Nuredinoski, 27, of Staten Island, New York, was also a first-time attendee.
“I wanted to tag along and see it and experience it for the first time,” she said.
Labeled as the “original halal festival,” others have popped up in other cities and regions throughout the nation, according to the group, but this festival remains the biggest, organizer Samira Amer said.
“It continues to get bigger every year,” Amer said.
According to Amer, the festival attracts both people and vendors from all around the region.
One of the more popular items at this year’s festival, was a non-alcoholic Pina colada drink served inside a hollowed out pineapple.
That vendor was donating a portion of his sales to rebuilding a burned down Mosque.
Some attendees waited on line, in the sun, for the special drink for as long as 45-50 minutes.
Two of those in that line came from Brooklyn, New York, and even Paris, France.
Sophia Hare, 20, of Paris, has been in the United States for two months visiting her family including, Naven Addel, 20, of Brooklyn.
Both ladies said they were enjoying the festival and, especially, the drink.