Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Connecting, conversing and celebrating cultural diversity at Faribault festival August 28, 2012

This woman represents El Salvador during the International Festival Faribault on a drizzly Saturday. Flags suspended from the Central Park band shell in the background show the countries participating in the event.

DESCRIBING AN EVENT like International Festival Faribault within the confines of a blog post or two seems daunting. How do I adequately convey the essence of this fest celebrating the cultural diversity of my community?

You can view my first effort by clicking here and reading “Yearning for respect & equality, ‘no matter what color you are.’”

Now, as I scroll again through the many photos I took during the fest (when rain wasn’t drizzling upon my camera), I ponder which images to share, what words to pen.

Cultures connecting on the band shell stage between musical acts.

And “c” words—like color, connecting, communicating, conversation, coloring, candy, culture, care, colorful clothing—pop out at me as I view my photos.

I should perhaps add “confusing” to that list because I felt overwhelmed when trying to photograph the wood carvings from Somalia and Kenya peddled by Bashir Omar and Asher Ali.

A woman, without prompting, took this mask from the table manned by Bashir Omar and Asher Ali and asked me to photograph her.

Suddenly, it seemed, everyone wanted to pose for a picture. And I much prefer candid to set up shots. I obliged, though, because it seemed the easiest thing to do.

Lul Abdi shows off beautiful wood crafts from Kenya and Somalia.

Then Lul Abdi, who had grabbed a wooden platter and giraffe, and held them up for me to photograph, asked me to write in my blog that an election is coming up in Somalia and I should tell everyone to vote for whomever it is she supports. Bashir Omar translated my answer—I don’t write about international political issues.

While this back-and-forth translation was occurring, I felt befuddled because, when too much noise (in this instance lots of conversation going on around me and music in the background), is coming my way, my brain doesn’t process anything. That issue is related to the 70 percent hearing loss in my right ear.

Despite the difficulties, this muddle served as an aha moment. Imagine if I was Lul, struggling on a daily basis to understand those around me. Life would be challenging.

Busy artists at the kids’ activity table.

But sometimes we all speak the same language. And I saw, rather than heard, that on Saturday, at the festival, especially among the children. They sat side-by-side painting at the kids’ activity table, bounced side-by-side in the bouncy tent, stood side-by-side in line to take turns swinging at pinatas.

A little girl stands on the opposite side of the group of children waiting to swing at the pinata.

Differences in color and culture and language mattered not to these children. They shouldn’t matter to any of us. Therein lies the message I most want to communicate to you today and which was communicated so well via International Festival Faribault.

Happy children all focused on the same goal: breaking the pinata.

All around me, children and adults of all colors mingled.

The boy on the right was biking past Central Park and stopped to watch the activities at a distance.

The scramble for candy once one of three pinatas is broken.

AND HERE ARE SOME ADDITIONAL BONUS PHOTOS:

Masks displayed at the food vendor representing El Salvador.

Waiting at the bouncy tent.

A Mexican dish (help me out if you know, but I think tortillas) was wrapped in banana leaves. My husband and I tried this.

Conversation and connecting…, no other words necessary.

Necklaces and other jewelry from Kenya and/or Somalia and for sale at the festival.

Kids painted and colored, etc., elbow to elbow at the always busy kids’ activity table.

Some mischievous face painting was also part of the fun.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling