Festival shifts focus to embrace diversity

Holly Leske

Variety is the spice of life, as the old proverb goes, and the 30th annual Festival of Cultures is definitely taking that into account.

The event, which features 14 international food booths, various cultural goods, performances and diversity showcases, usually draws around 1,500 to 2,500 people each year.

The focus of the Festival of Cultures lies in the heart of diversity that the International Relations Club and the Office of International Affairs and Outreach try to bring to the festival each year. The goal is to allow people an opportunity to explore, experience and celebrate other cultures. But the festival doesn’t just focus on international culture according to Greg Wymer, manager of international students and scholars for International Affairs.

“The festival of cultures is not just for International Affairs, we also have cultures represented like our Native American culture [among others],” he said.

Anna Schuh, the study abroad advisor helping plan the Festival of Cultures with the Office of International Affairs and Outreach, reiterated that this year’s Festival of Cultures has a bigger focus on highlighting the diversity of indigenous culture.

“This year we’re beginning to move the focus more toward the celebration of various aspects of diversity rather than simply international culture,” she said. “Of course international culture is critical, and a big reason [why] we put on this festival… but we also want to highlight local diversity and local culture.”

SDSU has approximately 500 international students from around 59 different countries currently attending classes as graduate or undergraduate students. The festival pays tribute to these students and provides an opportunity for other SDSU students and attendants to learn more about the people around them.

“There’s an opportunity to expose SDSU students to culture,” Wymer said, “[and] increase the cultural tapestry of the institution.”

SDSU students and the Brookings community are not the only guests bound to attend; around 150 regional schools from South Dakota and Minnesota have also been invited to the festival.

“Much of what the experience will be will actually be a lot of international flair, food and opportunity to get to know a few international cultures,” Wymer said.

While the festival goes on, a variety of performances will take place, starting at 10 a.m. and lasting until 1:20 p.m. A new performance starts every 20 minutes, beginning with a performance titled “Sons of Norway” and ending with salsa dance lessons.

The variety of food, all catered by local international chefs from sites around Brookings, ranges from the familiar Chinese-style food hosted by Kings Wok, to a “Himalayan Corner” sponsored by the Nepalese Student Association.

“I think it’s a good way for people to experience the food and some performances and also capture people that represent different culture groups in our community,” Schuh said.