A celebration like the World of Montgomery Festival is possible only because of the county’s cultural diversity. “We are so fortunate to live in a community where one in three residents comes from another country,” said Cara Lesser, the KID Museum’s executive director who has managed the core content of the festival for the past five years.
The eighth annual family-friendly outdoor event, with the theme “A Place Called Home,” promotes multicultural awareness by showcasing the variety of heritages that compose the county’s population. On Sunday, Oct. 16, from noon to 4 p.m., some 10,000 people are expected to partake of authentic food, music, dance, craft, visual arts, theater, traditional arts and hands-on projects on Montgomery College’s Rockville campus.
Noting the disappearance of the county’s 1980s-era Ethnic Heritage Festival, the Office of Community Partnerships (OCP) “partnered with the Arts & Humanities Council (AHCMC) and Latino Economic Development Corporation to bring back the festival under the new name” in 2008, said OCP Director Bruce Adams. The event, he added, “carries on Montgomery County’s historic commitment to empower our ethnic communities, while adding a charge from County Executive Ike Leggett to build strong partnerships between the county government and the county’s nonprofit organizations and faith communities.”
Despite the “scores of wonderful ethnic events across Montgomery County each year,” Adams said, “the World of Montgomery Festival is the one time all the ethnic communities join together to showcase the diversity of our ethnic communities. This event is perfect for families that want to introduce what it means to be a 21st century global citizen to their children.”
“It has been a great success, getting bigger and better every year with support from the Fund for Montgomery,” he noted.
Montgomery College became a partner as well as the event venue in 2015. “It fits in with our strategic planning to be more active in the community,” said Karla Silvestre, the college’s director of community engagement. “Bringing (all those) people onto our campus is a great way to accomplish that.”
The college, Silvestre said, will have two tents, one in which students will celebrate their home cultures with interactive activities, and the other highlighting MC’s Global Humanities Institute, “a NEA program that shows faculty how to bring global education into their classrooms,” and the college’s 70th anniversary. World Ensemble, a student and faculty instrumental group, will perform, and tours of the new campus science building will be offered. “For our second time around, we’ll do it a little better,” Silvestre promised.
Lesser said that this year’s festival will include the best of previous ones as well as some expanded features. As in the past, two stages will feature performances of dance and music that highlight world cultures, and festival-goers will receive “a nice-quality passport, intended to raise awareness of how many people live in our community and engage the whole family.”
The International Village, which included four of the county’s largest immigrant populations—from China, El Salvador, India and Ethiopia—has been expanded to include five additional ones: Ukraine, the Caribbean, Indonesia, Korea and Germany. The KID Museum, in conjunction with its monthly cultural exchange presentations at the Davis Library, helped “the cultural groups work on their presentations involving hands-on native customs,” Lesser said. Due to space limitations and the desire to make the exhibits exceed the quality of “an elementary school international night,” the process for countries to participate was competitive.
“As part of AHCMC’s 40th anniversary celebration and our celebration of National Arts and Humanities Month, we encouraged our constituents to join us in participating at the World of Montgomery festival this year,” said Deputy Director Joe Frandoni. The AHCMC booth will highlight CultureSpotMC.com and promote the creative economy in Montgomery County including the 18 arts and humanities organizations that will exhibit their programs and present interactive cultural activities highlighting their work and the festival’s international focus.
What many consider the highlight of the day for its lively colors and sounds, the Parade of Cultures will circle the festival grounds beginning at 1:30 p.m. “Anybody can take part, as long as they let us know in advance. It’s high energy, organic, not formal like a Thanksgiving Day parade,” said Lesser. A welcoming ceremony with public officials will follow.
And the food is definitely not routine fair fare, Lesser said. Instead, it’s “all ethnic and all good quality.” A rotating cast of four international cooks will prepare traditional dishes and offer free samples in a Global Kitchen in the form of a professional chef’s demo space, and food trucks and vendors will be on the festival grounds.
Admission to the World of Montgomery Festival is free. For information, visit www.worldofmontgomery.com or click here to view this event on CultureSpotMC.