Celebrating multiculturalism

Despite the overcast weather this past weekend, Kitchener’s Victoria Park was filled with hundreds of people participating in and celebrating the beginning of summer with the Kitchener-Waterloo multicultural festival.

For the past 40 years, KW has been hosting this fair, dedicated to ethnic diversity from around the world— and it has been nominated as one of the best festivals in the Waterloo region.

The streets around the park were blocked from traffic, so pedestrians could easily walk along the roads and sidewalks getting trouble-free access to the events happening in the park. A myriad of tents and booths lined the pathways, selling merchandise or handing out informational pamphlets dealing with topics ranging from religion to sexual assault.

“I’ve come every year,” festival goer Catherine Kelly said. “It’s really relaxing and it’s family oriented which is nice.”

Stephanie Hong, co-ordinator of the Buddhist Light International Association, said she’s been promoting her booth explaining Buddhism since 1999. “We try to raise awareness,” she said. “And the festival really helps us to connect to the communities here.”

One of the many positive qualities of the event was that it not only celebrated diversity, but the different sectors of the multiple ethnicities. When Hong was asked whether or not all the Buddhist tents dealt with the same ideas and values, she said each tent dealt with different aspects of Buddhism.

This diversity within diversity was found to be true of other religions and groups as well. Not only was ethnic variety celebrated this past weekend, but the many strands within these unique differences.

But the festival includes much more than just self guided pathway sites and discoveries. A variety of performances were held at many locations throughout the park, representing culture from around the world. The Aboriginal Anishnabeg

Outreach group held multiple tribal dances, that incorporated traditional attire.
Julie Snache, one of the organisers of the Aboriginal group, explained that one of the dances was “in celebration of the aboriginal people, which is similar to a traditional pow-wow. There is a host and co-host drum group which would sit in the middle of an arena and the others would dance around them.” She continued to say that there are multiple varieties of songs that can be performed such as songs of honour or worship.

Other performances included dances from the KW Chinese School junior and senior folk dance groups, also wearing traditional Chinese costume for their performances, as well as a long list of others.

Another festival goer said that he liked the festival because, “it’s important to celebrate multiculturalism in our region, and anyone that wants to be represented here can be.”

The size of the park and the many sites to visit left many visitors and performers hungry but there was no question that food would be provided. For very reasonable prices, guests could choose from innumerable assortments of food from Ethiopian to Greek, and Vietnamese to traditional North American barbecue.

“You have to go at least once,” attendee Henry Kidd said, enjoying a massive turkey leg from one of the vendors. “It’s so worth it and this will sound so cheesy, but you’ll probably even learn something new.”