Going to festivals isn’t really my thing. Slow-moving crowds, overpriced food and parking hassles are usually successful deterrents.

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But this past weekend I braved the masses for a special occasion: the first-ever Thai Culture and Food Festival. It just so happened to be held right in our neighborhood at The Buddhist Center of Dallas, which I didn’t even know existed, I’m ashamed to say.

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First off, there was plenty of free parking, the admission was free, and I could get a meal for less than $10. Score. Also, I’m obsessed with Thai food, so there’s that. Offerings from nearby Asian Mint and Bangkok City, (such as the spicy big noodle with garlic and basil below,) put smiles on more than a few faces in the crowd.

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There was shade from abundant greenery, along with places to cool off inside the temple. No shoes allowed, though.

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For entertainment there were musical, dance and Muay Thai boxing performances.

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Vendors sold inexpensive wares including teak food utensils, traditional Thai clothing, and dozens of trinkets made in Thailand.

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Inside the temple, a mural illustrated Buddha’s path to enlightenment. Of note was the artist’s inclusion of an iPad with Facebook on it to indicate the culture and time that the mural was painted, rather than writing the date. Note the cowboy hat too, which is meant to promote Buddhist’s engagement with (and not separation from) the existing culture in Dallas.

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Dozens of people promptly held up their smartphones to capture the unique detail, yours truly included.

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Practicing Buddhists or those interested in learning more about the temple can attend a weekly discussion on Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. or call Jack Boling at 940.594.7794.

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