Festival honors diversity

Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson

Offering a variety of international activities, foods and handiwork, the Festival of Cultures is an annual SDSU tradition. It draws students and faculty alike to learn about cultures from all parts of the world.

Jean Michel Bassquin, Festival of Cultures coordinator, described the event as a show of the diversity of the cultures, not just at SDSU, but also in the state of South Dakota.

Twenty-six different cultures were represented at the festival through a combination of merchandise booths, musical performances and ethnic foods.

The event gave on-campus groups and organizations the chance to get involved and profit from their participation.

Marie High Bear, president of the Native American club, set up a booth selling nachos and pop. There was also a location for donations set up on the main floor of the HPER center.

“This is actually my first year participating, but I have been here the past two years,” High Bear said. “I like it because there’s a lot of cultures. I like it because there’s a variety.”

On the main floor, Diane Rickerl, coordinator of multiculturalism for the AgBio College, had a booth set up for her International Experience course that she teaches each spring.

“We have a booth here because each year we take a group of students to a different country, so we want students to know about that opportunity,” Rickerl said.

During the course’s six-year run, they have traveled to Bolivia, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Africa and Jamaica.

“We try to have a plan about a year ahead of time and I coordinate the academic part of the class, but individual teachers come to me and say, ‘I’d really like to plan a trip to Jamaica,’ ” Rickerl said. “So, they plan the trip and I coordinate the class.”

With a trip planned for India next year, the class will see a tiger preserve and the Taj Mahal.

“There are three areas we look at in the course: We look at cultural diversity, we look at food systems and then we look at environmental issues, so we try to line up different sites related to those,” Rickerl said.

Community members also attended the festival. SDSU graduate Dave Huebner was working a pottery booth.

“Pottery is a tradition all over the world in lots of cultures,” Huebner said.

The combination of so many different people and cultures present provided SDSU students with a positive experience.

“There were a lot of different things,” freshman Amanda Jensen said. “I liked the dancing of the Dakota Nation.”

The traditional Native American dance and songs were also a hit with freshman Eric Genzlinger.

“I was kind of amazed that there was the Native American dance there,” Genzlinger said. “That was quite exciting to see.”

Due to the mixture of cultures present in the United States, Genzlinger believes the festival provides more awareness of the positive aspects of different cultures.

“I think it’s good for people to view and kind of take in other people’s cultures because it’s a big world and there’s more than just the American culture,” Genzlinger said. “With immigration, people from other cultures and other countries do move here and we have to be a little more accepting and take in what they have to offer.”

Even though her teacher offered extra credit as an incentive for attending the festival, freshman Morgan Cecil said that she would have attended the event anyway.

“I really enjoyed it. I really liked seeing the different cultures and some of their traditions and their foods,” Cecil said. “I walked around all the booths and asked them questions.”

Cecil was impressed by the overall ambience of the festival as well.

“I didn’t expect it to be such a big setup,” Cecil said. “I didn’t expect that there were going to be so many people there, but there were families and there were kids from the high school; maybe even elementary school.”

After the success of this year’s festival, Bassquin is already starting to plan next year’s festival activities.

“Well, my own impression was that it went well,” Bassquin said. “I think everything went, I would say, 95 percent as planned. There were just some minor things we had to adjust to.”

Those minor adjustments didn’t detract from the main goal, though, he said.

“It gave people an opportunity to come together, despite their diversity.”

#1.885164:3082368905.jpg:cultures_shopping_jerry.jpg:Freshmen Ryan Waybeight and Jacob Hobbs and sophomore Dustin Honkamp browse through a vendor´s booth at the Festival of Cultures on Friday.: