Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Join efforts to connect neighbors in a celebration of cultural diversity July 14, 2012

Several Latinos lead in singing of Mexico’s national anthem last September during the International Festival Faribault at Faribault’s Central Park.

ORGANIZERS OF THE SEVENTH ANNUAL international festival celebrating the cultural diversity of Faribault are looking for participants, help and donations for the Saturday, August 25 event.

Can you help?

And when I say “you,” I mean anyone, whether you live in or near Faribault or not.

Served at the 2011 fest: Guatemalan chuchitos– chicken, corn and salsa wrapped in a corn husk.

Drive on down from the Cities; we’re only an hour from downtown Minneapolis. Or drive across town to set up a booth showcasing your culture at International Festival Faribault. Sell ethnic cuisine. Pedal your ethnic arts and crafts or other merchandise. Show and tell and educate the public about your culture in this event pegged as “neighbor meeting neighbor.”

I like that neighborly phrase, for it is when we meet face-to-face and engage in conversation and sample each others food and learn each others customs that the cultural barriers begin to fall and friendships (or at least understanding) form.

Vendors, like this Somali woman, peddled their wares at the 2011 festival.

Table and booth space at the 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. festival are currently available to the public for a $20 fee. But get this: You keep all profits earned. Non-profit organizations get free space.

Now if that isn’t enough incentive to book a spot in Faribault’s Central Park for the day, consider how you will help advance the mission of the non-profit International Festival Faribault. Here’s the organization’s mission:

…to promote understanding between diverse cultures within Faribault, MN; uniting the community with music, dance, ethnic foods and merchandise which is experienced at a once a year festival organized by the committee.

Hoop maker, performer and teacher Adrienne Lee teaches a Girl Scout the art of hoop dancing. The Girl Scouts were among the non-profit groups with booths at the 2011 fest.

Already, Spanish and Somali singers, a local dance academy and several small bands have committed to providing on-stage entertainment. A hula hooper and jugglers are signed on to wander through the crowd.

The scramble for candy after the pinata is broken at last year’s festival.

What can you contribute? Dancing, singing or other musical entertainment from your culture? On-site ethnic art/crafts demonstrations? Are you willing to sing your country’s National Anthem on the Central Park Bandshell stage? How about presenting a mini drama or storytelling focused on your ethnicity? Can you plan and lead ethnic activities for kids?

The group also needs volunteers to assist with set-up and clean-up, help throughout the day, etc.

Monetary and silent auction donations are also needed. Do you have a tent and/or tables the group can borrow? Can you help with banners or flyers? Donate food items?

Yes, the list of needs is lengthy. But remember the “neighbor” part of this festival? Neighbors help neighbors.

Colorful skirts for sale at Riyaam’s booth during the 2011 celebration.

If you are interested in participating, contributing or helping in any way, email internationalfestivalfaribault@gmail.com or call (507) 412-9139. You must complete an application form and submit the $20 payment in advance to reserve a booth/table space.

Also, click here to visit the festival website at http://internationalfestivalfaribault.blogspot.com.

Finally, even if you’re unable to participate or donate, mark your calendar for 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saturday, August 25, for the International Festival Faribault. Admission is free and I promise, you’ll come one step closer to understanding your neighbors.

A young girl’s henna stained foot, photographed at the 2011 fest..

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling