MARYSVILLLE – “There’s a lot of positive energy in here,” said the drummer leading the Yolihani Group from Mexico before pounding out another forceful beat for his fellow feathered dancers.
Positive energy pretty much summed up the mood in the room as families experienced the diversity and vitality of other cultures through dance, music, food and art at the 2nd Annual Festival of World Cultures last Friday.
For an evening, the Cedarcrest Middle School cafeteria was transformed into a crisscross of cultures sharing poetry, games and crafts that gave the hundreds who attended a more intimate look into the ways of their people.
The Marysville School District’s Equity, Diversity and Indigenous Education Department hosted the festival.
Wendy Messarina, district lead parent advocate with the department and festival coordinator, was “super excited” about the turnout.
“What makes me happy is to see the faces of the families and the people attending, and also I’m happy that we can be sensing this love for the different cultures and different performers from around the world,” she said.
Deborah Parker, director of Equity, Diversity and Indigenous Education and a Tulalip tribal member, said, “Events like this help us celebrate the many contributions that make our community strong and united, and help us all understand the importance of respecting and honoring our diverse cultural backgrounds.”
Sisters Luz and Ana Romero Diaz, Mexican-American eighth-grade and sixth-grade students at Cedarcrest, loved the way their cafeteria became a veritable United Nations of colors, sights and sounds – some foreign, some familiar.
“I learned a lot of things about different cultures and what they do,” Luz said, adding she was excited to learn more Middle Eastern cultures and the dances they performed.
Both said people who didn’t come missed out.
“Just more culture and diversity is what they would get out of coming, and just maybe the fun of learning more things,” Luz said.
Ana added: “Like, just leave your phones and come inside to explore pretty much the world. You’re not going to them; they’re coming to you.”
Marysville parent Rachel Erickson said she and her young family were impressed.
“I especially liked the dancers, the performers and the table decorations were awesome,” said Erickson, who served on the city’s Diversity Advisory Committee and whose husband, Noah Rui, is Chinese-American and running for City Council.
In different corners of the room, kids could try using chopsticks at the Korea booth, visit Russia’s display to admire the expressive Matryoshka nesting dolls and then get in the long dinner line to try a bevy of appetizing international delights.
Other peoples sharing their culture included the Tulalip Tribes, Mexico, Peru, Panama, the Philippines, Korea, Egypt and Hawaii.
Performers included Tulalip Native American singers and drummers; the Yolihani Group; Foyden Abafo from Hawaii; Profusion Tribal Dancers representing Egypt; Grupo Folklorico Nuestras Raices from Mexico; Sonia Porras-Nino de Guzman from Peru and Pasion Peruana, both representing Peru; Blanca Watts Panama Folklore – Panama; Divine Grace Bayya & Alene Farim – the Philippines; Nathan Collins Seattle Hand Drummers; and Afua Kouyate Arts representing Africa.