Interactive ethnic festival brings diversity awareness

Lacey’s Ethnic Celebration on Feb. 1 was more interactive this year with more children and family friendly events and even more cultural presentations.

The free all-day celebration went from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and included music and dance performances, art displays, children’s activities, and food from around the globe. Many different ethnicities were represented for this event and almost all of them were local. The event was held in the St. Martin’s University Pavilion with almost every aspect of the building used this year for all of the cultural presentations.

Approximately 2,500 people attended this community event, which has been about the average number for the last four years, said Jordy Beasley, recreation coordinator for Lacey Parks and Recreation. This year there were 30 different performances and presentations with over 50 tables set up for vendors and other associations that represented local ethnic groups.

This year there was a larger emphasis on children’s activities and interaction between the vendors and the people. Lacey Parks and Recreation created passports for kids to travel the world by getting their passports stamped by different booths. “This created a greater relationship between the vendors, the booths, and the people,” said Beasley. She added that this gave children a chance to stop at each booth and learn, while parents could also talk and interact with the vendors.

Beasley said without the passports, people coming to this event would usually just pass right by the booths. They would look and admire at what each booth presented, said Beasley, but typically would not interact too much with the people sitting at the booths. The passports were a conversation starter, she said.

With more interaction between passerby’s and those at the booths, Beasley said she noticed more conversation going and more questions being asked. People were able to learn more about each of the cultures, she said. More people stopping by each booth allowed people to be more aware of the cultures in this community.

There were groups like the Danish Sisterhood of America that were informing people on how Denmark has influenced Olympia’s very own Capitol grounds. Jytta Wagoner, a member of the Olympia and Tacoma Danish Sisterhood of America, said most people have no idea that the large fountain in front of Olympia’s Capitol building is an exact replica of the Tivoli Fountain in Denmark.

As more people stopped and talked at each booth, more groups like the Olympia Area Chinese Fellowship members including SPSCC students, Paul Lee and Wei Wei Shi, were able to talk about events that their groups are hosting around Olympia. On Feb. 8, the Olympia Area Chinese Fellowship organized a free Chinese New Year Celebration event at Capital High School, said Shi.

More interaction at this year’s event also taught people that some groups were not just about having heritage from a certain culture, but about learning and teaching it. Bret BinRaven, a member of the Crow Drummers group, said that most of them in the group do not have much heritage connected to Guinea culture, but just have a great fascination and respect for West Africa, particularly the music of that culture.

This is a globally connected band that is also in-tune with their community. The Crow Drummers started out performing in Olympia’s Procession of the Species parade, and have continued that as well as performing in other Olympia events like Sand in the City and the Capital City Gay Pride Parade.

Many things that have been popular in the past stayed the same, said Beasley. The Vietnamese Lien Hoa Buddhist Youth Associations with their impressive lion dance and the Slieveloughane Irish Dancers continued to be big crowd pleasers again this year, she said.

While the Our Name is Panama group has done performances on the St. Martin’s large stage in the past, this year they tried something different by having an informational booth and a smaller presentation in the more private performance room. Their presentation included a background of Panama’s heritage and many visual displays including members of the group wearing some of the different national costumes of Panama.

Diana Soto and Caytlin Davis were two members who then performed a folkloric Panamanian dance during the group’s presentation. Most people think Panamanian culture is just like Mexican culture, said Davis, so it’s important that we are able to bring cultural awareness to the community.