In 2016, the City of Gaithersburg reigned as the “Most Diverse City in America,” beating out 312 other cities, including major metropolises like Los Angeles and New York City. Not bad for a city of less than 100,000 residents. Criteria included ethno-racial diversity, economic diversity and household diversity, according to the authors behind the report by financial website WalletHub.
Typical of a city whose tagline reads “Character Counts,” Gaithersburg doesn’t brag about this honor. They do, however, celebrate it.
On Saturday, April 14, the City of Gaithersburg and its Multicultural Affairs Committee (MAC) present the second annual DiverseCity Showcase in partnership with the Lakeforest Mall. DiverseCity Showcase event-goers will enjoy the music, dance and fashion of many world cultures, said Amy McGuire, the City of Gaithersburg’s communication specialist. Demonstrations of cultural traditions will be featured, and there will be a trivia game for which prizes will be awarded, donated by Discover Books.
At the center of it all will be the performances. “We have eight groups participating this year, providing dance and music from their countries of origin,” said Andi Rosati, the event’s senior program supervisor. She is expecting an even larger crowd than last year, when the event drew “approximately 600 attendees,” Rosati said. “We hope to increase that number through additional marketing efforts.”
Those who attended last year are in for some new activities this time around. “We are adding…Chinese calligraphy, where [visitors] can have their names written on cardstock. We will also have temporary henna tattoos from India,” Rosati said.
Most of the event’s performers live in Montgomery County — home to several other WalletHub “Most Diverse Cities in America.” Silver Spring, Germantown and Frederick landed in the Top 10 alongside Gaithersburg. The District of Columbia ranked 122 on that list.
Rosati said the performers also can look forward to some logistical changes that will improve the choreography off-stage. “Last year, our dressing room was a distance away,” she said, “and it was difficult for performers to change clothes in time for their next dance. This year, we are able to use a spot much closer.” Rosati credited the partnership with Lakeforest Mall for a great deal of assistance — not just with the equipment, but with augmented marketing efforts.
Bera, a Sri Lankan drum group, will perform on this year’s center stage. Their trainer Indika Attanayake said the group “looks forward to showcasing their traditional Sri Lankan drum beats and costumes to [the] U.S.A. The drums and costumes are original, from Sri Lanka, and display the history of 2,500 years,” he said.
Like many of the DiverseCity Showcase acts, Bera has performed all around the region. Venues include George Mason University, Sri Lanka Day in Silver Spring and at a New Year celebration at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington. “We are the only Sri Lankan drum group in metropolitan area,” Attanayake said, himself a Montgomery County resident since 2006. He said that there are many girls dance groups, but not many groups featuring boys. “We are already well-known and [are] invited to many cultural events.” He added that the group is in the position of turning down performance invitations due to lack of availability.
Bera’s members range in age from 9 to 17. Of the 12, nine were born in the United States.
In such a culturally abundant area, one might wonder why an event like this had not hatched until last year. DiverseCity Showcase was an idea that come out of a Multicultural Affairs Committee brainstorming session, said Rosati. “Some local schools host multicultural events [or Heritage Nights] and Asbury Methodist Village hosts a multicultural event each year,” she said, but “DiverseCity is on a larger scale and provides entertainment and activities all afternoon.”
“The Gaithersburg Library will [also] be at the event highlighting the immigration experience,” Rosati said, and noted that the Showcase kicks-off a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) project called Big Read Montgomery. The goal of this joint partnership with Montgomery County Public Libraries, Friends of the Library, Montgomery County, Montgomery Community Media, the Gaithersburg Book Festival and Montgomery History is to revitalize the role of literature in American culture.
DiverseCity Showcase—including performances by Zhong Sheng’s Grace Posture & Dance (noon); Armonias Peruanas (12:30 p.m.); Vim Nation of Northwest High School, African Dance (1 p.m.); Paso Fuerte of NWHS’s Latin Student Association (1:30 p.m.); Palestinian Americans of Montgomery County (2 p.m.); Kuchipudi Dance Academy (2:30 p.m.); Bera (3 p.m.) and Culkin Irish Dancers (3:30 p.m.)–takes place Saturday, April 14, in Lakeforest Mall, Center Court, 701 Russell Ave., Gaithersburg. Admission is free, and the event is suitable for all ages. For more information, visit www.gaithersburgmd.gov or call 301-258-6350.