On Saturday, Oct. 15, the community-wide, annual Festival of Nations sponsored by the Geneva City School District and Hobart and William Smith Colleges marks its 10th year of celebrating the diverse cultures of the Geneva community.
“Over the past 10 years, we have partnered with just about every organization in Geneva,” says Nikki Kersbergen, grants coordinator for the Geneva City School District Office who is leading the festival’s organization. “Some of those connections have grown into educationally sustainable partnerships within the Geneva City Schools classrooms. It is amazing to watch this event become a gateway to a larger collaboration for the students.”
Sponsored by the Geneva City School District and Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Festival is a collaborative event between the schools and local artists and musicians, business owners, community resources and stakeholders such as the Geneva Public Library, the Ontario County Youth Bureau and the Kiwanis Club.
With the support of the Colleges through the leadership of Mary Herlihy Gearan, HWS international students and clubs participate annually alongside Geneva community members, sharing traditions from more than 30 nations. Many other HWS student clubs and organizations participate as well, deepening the relationship between the Colleges and the local communities and encouraging interaction between Geneva City School and HWS students, especially those of international descent.
“Sadly, with the Gearans concluding their tenure at the Colleges in 2017, this is Mary Gearan’s last year with the Festival of Nations,” says Kersbergen. “She has played an instrumental and invaluable role from the very beginning. She truly is the heart and soul of the Festival. We are going to miss her tremendously in the coming years. The success of this event including the growing partnerships is one of her many legacies for Geneva.”
Finger Lakes Community College will play a larger role in this year’s Festival of Nations, with its EMS team collaborating with the HWS EMS members to demonstrate first aid skills as well as student musicians performing and Geneva High School alumna and FLCC culinary student Kayleigh Legg bringing her epicurean skills to the festival.
“We’re a community college and we want to build more connections with our community partners,” says Leigh Principio Pitifer ’84, P’13, P’18, the campus center specialist at the Finger Lakes Community College Geneva Campus Center. “We’re excited to have the regional EMS program and the ESL programs represented at the Festival of Nations, and students from the main campus performing. We would love to bring in more programs in the future.”
Hosted at Geneva Middle and High schools on Carter Road, the Festival of Nations begins at 1 p.m. with dozens of local groups and clubs highlighting Caribbean, French, Italian, Jewish, Muslim, Russian, and South Asian traditions, among others. Longtime participants include the HWS International Students Association and HWS International Gospel Choir; Geneva MLK Community Choir; Sons of Italy and Sons of Italy Women Auxiliary; Geneva Rotary Club; Geneva Community Center and Boys and Girls Club; and Geneva 2020, among many others.
A free family-oriented community resource fair will also be held to highlight many services and resources provided by local non-profit agencies. This year’s basket raffle proceeds will go toward purchasing hygiene items, with the GHS Multicultural Club creating toiletry kits to be made available to Geneva students in need.
To participate in the community resource fair or to make a donation, please contact Kersbergen at (315) 781-0400 ext. 1202, or email her at NKersbergen@GenevaCSD.org.