Now in its fourth year, the Festival of Nations was more vibrant than ever, with almost 50 groups and clubs represented through food, music, games, performances and presentations. Held on Saturday, April 9, the program was hosted by Geneva Middle and High schools in collaboration with Hobart and William Smith Colleges and was a multi-cultural celebration for all residents of Geneva. Free and open to the public, nearly 3,000 people attended the festival this year – triple last year’s attendance.
“It was a beautiful celebration of Geneva community,” says Mary Herlihy Gearan, a member of the planning committee. “There were so many touching moments watching children who were volunteering, learning about the vibrancy of the Geneva community and seeing the pride in their artwork being displayed.”
Shanita McLeod ’13, a member of Sanofka and the Caribbean Student Association, notes how important the event is for the Colleges and greater Geneva communities, “Hobart and William Smith have so much cultural diversity-especially with the international students that the Colleges draw. The Festival of Nations gives Geneva residents the chance to learn about cultures all over the globe, and it’s a way for the HWS students to share their culture and develop an invested interest in the community they’re now a part of by actively interacting with the community.” McLeod worked at multiple tables serving foods and helping Geneva children with crafts.
Nearly all of the HWS campus cultural clubs were present at the festival, including: Asian Student Union, the Caribbean Student Association, the Chinese Culture Club, Hillel, the French Heritage Club, the International Student Union, the Irish Heritage Club, the Latin American Organization, Project Nur and Sankofa. A number of clubs and organizations at the festival conducted fundraisers for Japan during the event. For example, at the Japanese culture booth led by Kyoko Klaus, Tanaka Lecturer in Asian Languages and Cultures at HWS, participants could make paper cranes. For each crane, OshKosh B’Gosh will send an article of clothing to Japan.
HWS also had a presence at the Festival of Nations through the Global Education and Ecofusion table. Students Lucia Berliner ’12, Maria Tarduno ’13 and Caley Goldblatt ’12 manned the booth, answering questions and telling stories of abroad. Geneva Middle and High school students viewed pictures of HWS students abroad while also being encouraged to one day take their own international journeys. Ecofusion, a HWS student-organized afterschool program for Geneva Middle School students, was promoting the end of the year celebration called Lake Fest!
“I enjoyed participating because it allowed me to see so many committed members of the Geneva community all working together to spread cultural diversity. I loved walking around the festival and trying the different countries’ food while meeting others in the Geneva community,” says Goldblatt.
In addition to working to coordinate programs, HWS students conducted activities such as beading and henna painting and cooked and served a flavorful mix of foods ranging from soups and rice dishes to cookies and breads. The Hobartones, Perfect Third, Hip-NotiQs and Three Miles Lost also performed.
“It’s important that HWS students are at this event because it’s necessary to establish and continue the reciprocal give and take relationship HWS students and Geneva residents have with one another,” says Jessamyn Martinez ’12, president of the Latin American Organization. “We can learn and offer a lot from each other, especially with the Festival of Nations which doesn’t just promote awareness of different cultures and a tolerance for them but can spark an interest in them.”
In addition to the schools and HWS, nearly 50 community organizations participated in the festival.
English teacher Nikki Kersbergen, who chaired the event, is grateful for the community participation. “I am amazed that we were able to bring in almost 3,000 people to the festival this year. We would not have been able to do it with the collaboration of HWS and the community. Geneva students and HWS students really pulled together and made this whole event unbelievable.”
The Finger Lakes Times covered the event on Saturday. The complete article follows.
Finger Lakes Times
Amanda Folts • April 11, 2011
GENEVA – Living up to its billing, Saturday’s Festival of Nations at Geneva High School offered foods and cultural activities from around the world.
Booths lined the hallways and the smells of a variety of food wafted through the building – from Spanish rice to meatballs to macaroni and cheese.
Many booths represented different countries and offered information about them. A booth on Japan offered visitors a chance to make paper cranes, and a sign stated that children’s clothing company OshKosh B’Gosh would send an article of clothing to Japan for every crane made. Donations also were accepted for trinkets with the money going to Japan as it rebounds from the recent earthquakes and tsunami.
Other booths represented various community organizations and some offered an activity and things for people to take away.
Linda Equinozzi and her daughter Kate, 9, of Geneva, stood near the North Street School Extended Studies table, where people were making beaded jewelry.
Equinozzi said her daughter had been talking about the festival all week, adding it’s really improved over the years and seems to get better every year. Saturday was the fourth Festival of Nations.
While Kate Equinozzi said she liked to hear the people singing, her mom said she enjoyed the activities.
“It’s very interactive so it keeps them engaged and interested,” Linda Equinozzi said.
Geneva schools Superintendent Robert Young said he noticed more organizations participating this year, and said the layout of the festival was more compressed in the high school.
The purpose of the event is to bring different neighborhoods and cultures from within the district together, he said.
“And to celebrate the many and varied cultures, languages and perspectives of the citizens of Geneva,” Young said.