Thousands came out under picture perfect skies for the annual Muslim Family Day at Six Flags organized by the Islamic Circle of North America. Photos by Anam Khatib.
Over 5,000 area Muslims soaked in the fun and the sun at the fourth annual “Muslim Family Day” at Six Flags this Saturday, enjoying one of seven post-Eid celebrations organized by the Islamic Council of North America throughout the nation.
Although this year’s event featured many family friendly and Islamically-inspiring staples of previous events – nasheeds playing in every corner of the park, adhan on public speakers, and savory halal treats from red velvet cupcakes to Mediterranean gyro platters – fine-tuning made the event better than ever, attendees said.
Attendance was up by over 20 percent since last year, organizer Arshad Naseem said. Over 25 percent more vendors were sprinkled through the park than last year, selling everything from Islamic children’s books to Islamic graphic T-shirts featuring spin-offs of popular slogans like ‘The Noor Face’ and ‘Just Deen It.’
“When the event ended around 7 p.m., so many people were still in the park, having fun and not rushing to get out,” organizer Mahmoud Aijazi said, “The weather was nice, it was a Saturday, families were together, and the Islamic atmosphere is always a go-getter – rain or shine.”
For the last two years, Muslim Family Day has been dampened by rain; but this year, with temperatures in the 70s and clear skies, the weather was pleasant, allowing attendees to feel comfortable in the breeze while avoiding stormy crowds good weather can bring.
Organizers also moved the event from Sunday to Saturday to encourage more people – especially those from outlying cities – to attend.
“Saturday provides a good cushion – it doesn’t conflict with work and school plans the next day or Sunday schools,” Naseem said.
But this year’s success wasn’t just due to the weather and date choice – local ICNA organizers revamped two previously problematic components of the program: food and prayer arrangements.
Prayers were offered in the park’s grand arena – the central of the amusement park. Large blue prayer rugs decorated the main stage at the central location while families and friends could lounge in the surrounding bleachers to eat, relax, and settle down, allowing attendees to divert the flow of people from food central to the arena.
Although the lines were still long, attendees also had a long, diverse menu to choose from – anything from freshly baked goodies from Sweet Tooth to Chicken Sheesh Tawook platters from Isis Café in Sterling, Virginia.
For first-timer Nazia Khan, a sophomore biology major at Montgomery College, the experience of this Muslim-exclusive event was enough to bring her back a second time. “I have been to other fun amusement parks but they tend to be extremely crowded and sometimes rowdy. Muslim Family Day was totally the opposite experience, my family and I was able to navigate through the park with ease and interacted with wonderful people,” Nazia khan said. “You feel like a VIP with your fellow Muslims – that’s not a feeling you get everyday.”
Although the event is exclusively for Muslims, non-Muslims attended, many of whom due to lack of knowledge about the vent, even though the park’s main website indicated the event was closed.
“Most people were out of state so they did not know about it, but it was a good da’wah opportunity. A couple actually asked us what was going on and asked more about Islam,” said Aijazi, “It’s a good da’wah opportunity.
Organizers hope to make the event bigger and better next year. Extended hours, social media marketing, and a goal to fill the park at the maximum capacity of 10,000 are on the drawing board.
They also expect the event to become a post Eid-ul-Adha celebration in the future. Six Flags only offers private events when its summer season dies down after Labor Day weekend.
Organizers will be putting out a survey for past and current attendees to get feedback, part of a more aggressive push to move forward.
The event, organized by local ICNA chapters and ICNA national, is also offered in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New Jersey, Dallas, and Los Angeles.