On Saturday, April 11, the ninth annual Festival of Nations returns with music, games, performances and presentations celebrating cultural heritage and global traditions.
In the collaboration among the Geneva City School District, Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the greater Geneva community, the Geneva High and Middle Schools will open their halls, library, gymnasium and cafeteria from 3 to 5 p.m. to more than 80 local groups and clubs. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage in the traditions, music, art and foods of Asian, Caribbean, French, Italian, Jewish, Muslim, Russian and South Asian cultures, among others. Free and open to the public, the festival also will feature diverse musical performances, including children’s and adult choirs, instrumentals, dance and more.
“I’m excited that each year the Festival of Nations gets bigger and better as we continue to expand our cultural experiences and offerings,” says High School English Teacher Nikki Kersbergen, chair of the event. “I am proud to work in such a diverse city that comes together to celebrate our diversity. I am also proud of all of our student volunteers. I hope members of the community once again come to celebrate with us.”
Regular Festival of Nations participants will be joined by first-timers such as the inventive and culturally aware Two Heron Drum Circle, comprised of Geneva community members, who will pound on their djembes and congas from West Africa and doumbeks from the Middle East.
The festival will also host Okinawan dancers, Kyoko Brena and Haruko Nevarra, invited by Kyoko Ishida-Klaus, Tanaka Lecturer of Japanese Language at HWS.
Other community performances include the St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy senior and junior choirs, composed of students between seventh through 12th grades, and third through sixth grades, respectively, who will perform in the Geneva High School Atrium area between 3 and 3:30 p.m. Under the direction of Ms. Wendra Trowbridge, the choirs will perform “Seize the Day” from Newsies, “Hallelujah” from Shrek, “Inscription of Hope” by Randall Stroope, a sea shanty by Jean Perry titled “Rosalee,” and an arrangement of the gospel song “The Storm is Passing Over.” Several of the academy’s piano and violin students will also perform solo pieces.
The musical performances at the festival are a unique convergence of what Geneva has to offer, Kersbergen says. “My goal when organizing performances for the festival is to offer as much diversity as possible. Geneva has so many amazing performers,” she adds. “We want to be able to give them all a platform to share their talents and get some much deserved recognition. I hope that everyone who attends the Festival finds something new that inspires them.”
The festivities will also include performances from several HWS student groups, including the HWS Gospel and the co-ed a cappella group Perfect Third. HWS seniors Dollian Garo and Jericsson Pichardo will perform a salsa, junior Shweta Kumar will perform traditional Indian dance, and the HWS Hip~NotiQ’s Step & Dance Team will perform an original piece choreographed by the group.
Maryum Raheem ’16, a Hip~NotiQ’s team member, says bringing different cultures together and connecting community through dance and other performances deeply aligns with the Hip~NotiQ’s Step & Dance Team’s mission statement. “We always look forward to Festival of Nations every year and appreciate the opportunity,” Raheem says.
“It’s really nice to get off campus and sing in the community,” says Sara Winant ’15 of Perfect Third. “Music is something that is so relatable for everyone and it’s great to be able to share our passion with a broader audience outside of campus.”
In addition to musical and dance performances, games and presentations surrounding cultural awareness will be available. Other participating groups and organizations include the Geneva High School Multicultural Club, Geneva Heroes, HWS Rotaract, Geneva High School Interact, HWS Latin American Organization, Anime Central, Mount Olive Baptist Church and the Geneva Hispanic Church of God.
“In the past years we have had food samples and praise dances in English and in Spanish with participation from both adults and children. This year we are hoping to do the same,” says Silmarie Reyes Ortiz, children’s director of the GHCG. The church has participated in the Festival of Nations over the past several years and has many members with heritage from Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Honduras, and Dominican Republic.
“We always have members come with their families to support us and the festival itself,” Ortiz says. “We are hoping that people learn our location and come visit. We want people to see how we praise and worship through our praise dances.”
The festival will also include a gift basket auction that will benefit both Thrive to Survive and the Geneva High School Interact Club’s initiative to promote hygiene in Bolivia.
Those interested in donating a gift basket can contact the Kersbergen at NKersbergen@genevacsd.org.
The Festival of Nations also coincides with the Geneva Book Fest (held from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at the Geneva Community Center) and the HWS Day of Service (held throughout the day at more than 20 sites in the greater Geneva area).
“Community agencies aligned calendars over the fall so that a common spring date could be found to promote shared community vitality interests,” says Katie Flowers, director of the HWS Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, who will assist in all three events. “We are excited to see how children and families respond to what will be a busy and fun day in Geneva.”