By Brittany DeVries
Steady sunshine shone on cultures from around the world Saturday, as the University of Mary Washington hosted its 18th annual Multicultural Fair.
The event featured many performances and presentations from various local organizations, including the Pilipino American Cultural Arts Society, the Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company and Aikido of Fredericksburg.
Cultural dances from China, Vietnam and Africa took place, as well as musical performances from local blues, gospel, and choral groups.
The Land of Promise Sanctuary Choir from the Land of Promise Church in Fredericksburg performed during the afternoon in front of Trinkle Hall. Land of Promise Administrative Assistant Kim Brown said that she enjoyed performing with her choir at this year’s campus event.
“The experience was great,” Brown said. “The Fair is of such magnitude, and so well organized, that it was great to be a part of that. It is a very important event to our community.”
UMW clubs and organizations that performed included the Jazz and Flute Ensembles, Latin Dance, Swing Dance and Breakers. UMW also put on a multicultural fashion show, where students sported clothing fashions from many cultures and countries around the world.
Performances, scheduled events and craft vendors were spread along much of campus walk, with outdoor stages in front of Monroe, Trinkle, and George Washington Halls. Food vendors served multicultural dishes at Ball Circle.
Also at Ball Circle was a children’s area, with kid-oriented activities such as piñata breaking with the Latin Student Association, Aikido demonstrations, and Chinese lion dancers. UMW students hosted day long children’s activities like origami, games, face painting, and letter writing for orphans in Copprome with Students Helping Honduras.
According to Acting Director of Multicultural Affairs Rev. Shaunna Payne, the children’s area was very important in drawing attention and attendance from the local community.
“The children’s area is always popular,” Payne said.
With the event occurring outside of her residence hall, Virginia Hall resident Amanda Heathcock found the Multicultural Fair hard to avoid.
“It was kind of unavoidable, seeing as I live right on campus,” Heathcock said. “I wanted to see what the music was about. It is a very cool environment to be a part of for a day.”
Senior Noah Hughey-Commers also enjoyed the event.
“I was just passing through, but there was so much going on everywhere,” Hughey-Commers said. “I really like that we encourage such multicultural, diverse activities here on campus, and such events make me feel more connected to the outside world.”
Payne expressed satisfaction with the celebration.
“We were terribly pleased with this year’s event,” she said. “Fifty percent of the success can be attributed to our staff and volunteers, and the other fifty percent is due to the great weather.”
Many Multicultural Fairs have been rained out in past years, and Hughey-Commers commented on Saturday’s pleasant weather.
“I’m so glad that they were able to have such good weather for their event this year,” Hughey-Commers said. “It made the event that much more enjoyable for everyone.”
Payne estimated roughly 4,000 people attended the event, an estimate that includes students, faculty, staff, and community members.
“It is a culminating event of the year that draws the entire community together,” Payne said. “The Multicultural Center works very hard to include entertainers, food, children’s activities, and crafts that the University may not experience on a regular basis.”
The Multicultural Fair was started by Forrest Parker, UMW’s first Multicultural Center director, in 1990. From its inception, it was meant to serve as an event that would bring the campus and the community together to celebrate diversity.
“The Multicultural Fair was the brainchild of Parker, and it has grown into an event with over 60 craft and food vendors, and almost 30 entertainers on three simultaneous stages,” Payne said.
The Multicultural Fair is part of the UMW Multicultural Center’s annual Cultural Awareness Series. According to the Center’s website, the Cultural Awareness series “brings cohesion to high-profile campus events that address multicultural issues.”
With the Cultural Awareness Series in its 14th year, and the Fair in its 18th year, Payne said that the James Farmer Multicultural Center and the UMW Multicultural Affairs has been successful in developing new ways to promote diversity and awareness on campus.
This includes celebrations of Latino Identities Month, American Indian Heritage Month, Black History Month and Women’s History Month.
“The Multicultural Center promotes diversity year round through the Cultural Awareness Series, the Stepping outside the Box Series, multicultural student organizations and annual celebrations,” Payne said.
Heathcock was impressed by the way students responded to the Multicultural event Saturday.
“It really brings people on campus together,” Heathcock said. “It is a cool thing to experience, and meeting people from different cultures is very important to our school.”
Payne said that an event such as the Multicultural Fair conveys an important message to people.
“The overall message is that difference is a valuable characteristic for every academic, social, personal, and professional setting,” Payne said. “When it comes to a collaborative, welcoming event at UMW, the Multicultural Fair is second only to Commencement.”