BEIRUT: This weekend Lebanese will get the chance to experience the sights, smells and sounds of Brazil – without leaving the country. Instead, Brazil will come to them.
Dancers and performers will be flying in from the Latin American country for the 32nd American University of Beirut Outdoors event under the theme “Rio.” For two days they will transform the campus on the eastern Mediterranean Sea into a scene that could be on the southern Atlantic Ocean.
“We want to add to the beach feel,” said Sarah Awada, a third-year AUB student serving as Outdoors’ vice president of marketing and sponsorship, who incidentally was born and raised in Brazil. “We want people to fall in love with Outdoors.”
Gathered at an office in AUB’s West Hall, she and fellow organizers are in their final week of planning one of the most elaborate events on campus, putting together last-minute details.
The weekend outdoor festival is a major event that features a wide variety of food, over 20 international and local performers on three different stages, including comedians, dancers, singers and acrobats, and games – and even a samba float and a bird show.
Although it lasts only two days, preparations began in September under a team of 250 students, subdivided into nine executive committees in charge of food, games, entertainment, concerts, decorations, construction, safety, marketing and sponsorship.
The annual event began in 1981 with 900 participants as a way to entertain students and the local community and celebrate the outdoors on campus. In recent years it has evolved into a large festival, each time with a new theme. Past years have been: Arabian Nights, Hawaii, Old Beirut and Carnival. Two years ago saw the highest attendance yet with 16,900 ticket sales.
It has also attracted an array of brands as sponsors, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Deek Duke, Bank Audi and Trident. The international chewing gum brand, the most popular in Brazil, will be sponsoring the festival’s grand prize: a trip for two to Rio de Janeiro. Anyone who pays the LL5,000 entry is eligible to win the prize.
“A lot of people come because they have nothing better to do. Other people have pictures from every year,” she said. “Outdoors has become a brand.”
Indeed, this year has seen an unprecedented level of marketing that organizers hope to continue in subsequent years. To create a buzz around the event, they organized flash mobs of Brazilian dancing at the Beirut Souks and left pineapples around the AUB campus – weeks before announcing the Rio theme.
Social media has given AUB Outdoors a big boost, with thousands of followers on Facebook and Twitter, and now this year on Instagram.
As the event continues to grow in prominence and popularity, organizers are pulling out all the stops to make sure this year’s festival is one to remember.
“We want to exceed all expectations of people who love Outdoors,” Awada said.