World Travelers in our Hometown

Photo courtesy of Mari-Lou Wong-Chong.

Photo courtesy of Mari-Lou Wong-Chong.

What: Brunswick County Intercultural Festival
When: Saturday, September 27th
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Odell Williamson Auditorium
50 College Rd., Bolivia
Cost: FREE
Info: www.bcifestival.org

Would you like the chance to grow your appreciation and understanding of the different cultures in Brunswick County? Have you ever wanted to try a different cuisine from another country but have been too timid?

Put your inhibitions aside and get ready for the Brunswick County Intercultural Festival. On Saturday, September 27th, everyone is invited to come out to the grounds of Odell Williamson Auditorium for this free, all-day event and listen to lively music and become mesmerized by amazing dance performances and lavish attire. Tempt your taste buds with a variety of ethnic foods from places around the globe including India, Italy, Thailand, Mexico, Japan, and Turkey. Children, too, will have plenty of opportunities to learn about other cultures and environments with all of the hand-on activities offered to them.

Spectators will relish among the entertainment from Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko (Japanese Drum & Dance), Middle Eastern Dancers, and many more performances. A detailed entertainment schedule is available at the event’s website, www.bcifestival.org.

Photo courtesy of Mari-Lou Wong-Chong.

Photo courtesy of Mari-Lou Wong-Chong.

This will be the 11th year for the Intercultural Festival, and each time it continues to grow bigger and better—so big that they need more space, festival chairwoman Mari-Lou Wong-Chong explained to me.

“Each year our attendance increases, new things are added and we learn from our experiences,” Wong-Chong explains. “Our International Pavilion has been overflowing with people and so it has been decided we need more space. We will create an environment to simulate an International Village where two countries are grouped together in a tent with an ethnic vendor between two tents.” Wong-Chong described to me that more countries are added each year the festival is held, and that all display participants are local residents.

A huge part of the festival is the cuisine. Food tasting is very popular, Wong-Chong explains, and it serves over 300 people. “Generous ethnic restaurants that have supported and donated to us in the past are very enthusiastic about helping out again. And because of the popularity, the food runs out even before the closing time for food tasting!” So in other words, get in line early, she warns.

“The festival is free and people are coming in at all times, so it makes it hard to get an exact head count,” Wong-Chong concedes. “There is a tremendous increase in children and families coming to spend time together, and school kids and children from foster homes are being bussed in to the festival for field trips. If I had to give a very conservative estimate, I would say a little over 1,500 people show up.”

Brunswick County, Wong-Chong and all of the members that help to put the festival together are very passionate about children. One of the children’s events “Passport to Culture” has grown tremendously. “The curiosity from the children and their families to interact with those who display their event and ask them questions is surprisingly overwhelming!” Wong-Chong exclaims.

Photo courtesy of Mari-Lou Wong Chong.

Photo courtesy of Mari-Lou Wong Chong.

Over 200 children completed their “passports” last year by visiting various booths and received a small gift donated by individuals and community businesses. These passports are an activity where children can travel through the festival and draw the places they get to see and be a part of on the pages of their booklet.

Home Depot will host a children’s workshop that provides the chance to hone in their woodworking skills. “The children’s workshop has been a buzzing place for hands-on activity for the children,” Wong-Chong tells. “Home Depot personnel had their hands full from beginning to end and made over 300 kits for the children last year.”

The Brunswick County Intercultural Festival has partnered with the Brunswick County School System and the Brunswick Arts Council to hold an art poster contest of multiculturalism. There will be three levels of categories of art that will be judged by an artist from the Waterworks Workshop. An award ceremony will be held on center stage and all of the students’ art will be on display at the Brunswick Arts Council tent.

One fact that most may not be aware of is that the festival is completely run by volunteers—these individuals are the hearts and souls that keep this event alive. “Our volunteers have so much commitment and dedication for all the cultural education and artistic enhancement of our community and serving people of all ages,” Wong-Chong says.

bcif-43 (1)The Intercultural Festival is in need of community help. Volunteers are required for computer help, coordinating events, and helping with other committee chairs. Volunteer opportunities can be viewed at the festival website.

This free event is sure to leave a lasting impression on guests for a lifetime, as they celebrate culture, music, food and life, delighting in what the unique citizens of our county have to offer.

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