San Jose celebrates the 24th annual Assyrian Food Festival on Aug. 20-21. The festival includes everything a good gathering should have: tasty food, live music and plenty of sweet and sticky desserts.

For two days the Assyrian Church of the East will attract thousands of visitors from all over the Bay Area to celebrate the rich culture and heritage of the Assyrian people. In addition to the many food, drink and dessert vendors there will be live performances by Assyrian celebrities and a raffle with a grand prize winner of up to $10,000.

One of the many highlights of the festival is the main parade, which also serves as an interactive educational experience. A chosen speaker recounts Assyrian history followed by several lively performances from youth dressed in beautiful, traditional Assyrian outfits. The conclusion of the parade invites attendees to join in the fun and try their hand at dancing.

But let’s get back to the main attraction of the festival: the food, of course. Traditional dishes will include grape leaves dolma (grape leaves stuffed with herbs, rice and meat) and plenty of authentic meat and veggie kabobs. The desserts are not to be missed with six tasty options such as popular dessert baklava and ice cream bars served in the traditional Middle Eastern style.

Brewed tea is a huge staple of Assyrian gatherings, and it can be found at the festival’s Samovar Valley. In addition to many exotic brews, coffee can be found next door in the caffe. If hot drinks aren’t your style, the wine bar will serve not only popular local wines but also specialty beers from local Assyrian brewers.

Admission is free, however, food tickets can be purchased ahead of time.