In trying to determine how good a local cultural festival is, you need go no further than to ask a member of the community.

“It’s all authentic,” said Ray Skaff, who is acting as a spokesman for the Ottawa Lebanese Festival, marking its 19th year in 2009. “The food is genuine, homemade food,” he said.

“We have an army of volunteers from our community who work day and night to create the food in the St. Elias centre. You can’t get more authentic than this.”

Just ask the 45,000 people who attend the five-day festival at the St. Elias Cathedral every year.

The Lebanese community has one of the biggest cultural populations in Ottawa, and the festival, which runs through Sunday, is a chance for them to enjoy and share with the greater Ottawa community the food, dance, music and art, Skaff said.

“We love to see people here,” said volunteer Kareem Saikaley, who has been with the festival since it began. “It doesn’t matter which nationality, which religion.”

Like many cultural celebrations, food is one of the highlights at the festival.

“We have some decadent desserts that you can’t get anywhere else,” Skaff said.

The traditional Beirut Lounge, with its Arguily tent, is also popular, said Skaff. “There’s always a lineup of people to get in.”

In the end, the celebration is much about Lebanese values, said Skaff.

“It’s about celebrating life and enjoying life day-to-day,” he said. “It’s a celebration of good people, good food and good times.”