BEIRUT: The Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, NYPD, Broadway, yellow taxies and the Empire State Building are some of things that come to mind when talking about New York City.
The American University in Beirut (AUB) was able to gather all of these famous landmarks in its Beirut campus as part of its annual Outdoors festival held on Saturday and Sunday.
“Take Me to New York”, this year’s theme, aims to provide those present with a living experience similar to that of New York City.
“New York is such a melting pot. It brings all cultures, types of music, entertainment, nationalities together,” Maissa Rababy, marketing team leader for Outdoors 2014 told The Daily Star. “New York... is an icon,” she added.
This year, organizers wanted to do things differently. They were keen on setting high standards for future festivals.
“Our aim is to make people happy,” operation officer of Outdoors 2014 Jad Sabra told The Daily Star. “We want people to come on Sunday too.”
From the minute one catches a glimpse of Manhattan’s skyscraper to passing under a replica of Brooklyn Bridge, the mood is set. A few meters away, visitors are greeted by the Statue of Liberty and a NYPD booth.
Dressed as NY’s police officers, is the Outdoors Safety Team. Their job is to make sure things go as smoothly as possible during the two-day event. The team’s 90 members are expected to keep everything under their guard.
“We have to make sure that Outdoors runs as smoothly as possible according in line with rules and ensure the cleanness of the food, no smoking on campus and no fights take place,” Samer Atshan, communication team leader at the Safety Team, said. “A fight costs us a lot of attendees because we have to close the doors,” he added.
The two-day event isn’t new to AUB. Founded in 1981 as an occasion to gather and mingle for the students and local community, this year marked AUB’s 33rd Outdoors.
Since 2005, the festival became a theme-oriented event. Towards the end of each academic year, AUB students, faculty and neighbors eagerly wait for Outdoors. Last year’s theme “Rio” broke the record held three years ago with more than 20,000 attendees.
This Saturday, the carnival took off slowly, but later in the day more people flocked to enjoy the games, the entertainment and the music. “So many people!” exclaimed a youngster as she made her way to the green oval.
Up until 4:00 p.m. 5000 people have taken part of the “Take me to New York” event, organizers reported.
“We activated our social media accounts one month and a week before the event,” Rababy said explaining the different ways of promotion used to inform people about Outdoors.
With the various games, shows, competitions and the screening of the Champion’s League, organizers hope they attract as many participants as possible. However, breaking the “Rio” record is not their main priority.
With preparations beginning in October, this year’s AUB Outdoors focused on fixing the gaps in last-year’s Brazil-themed festival.
Emily Akiki, a member of last year’s Outdoors, maintained that the organizers have done a good job in bringing New York to Beirut.
“They provided games and food related to the theme,” she said. “They have also focused on the safety and are ready to deal with emergencies,” Akiki added.
More than 350 members of AUB students have worked on this weekend outdoor festival. New York, one of the world’s most vibrant cities, is a “spot that everybody wants to visit,” Rababy enthusiastically concluded.