On Sept. 16, the Office of Multicultural Student Life, the Caribbean Club and a few other campus organizations came together to create a Fiesta — complete with food, music and dancing on the Martin Luther King (MLK) Plaza. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., anyone could stop by for free lunch and fun. Banners and flags were strung from one end of the plaza to the other. An information booth was set up, manned by a handful of volunteers; some even dressed up and encouraged people to dance along to music with them. The lines for food were long, but fast and well–organized. From an outsider’s perspective, the event seemed successful. A consistent flow of people stopped by to check out the event. By the time initial setup had finished, people from all cultural backgrounds were already beginning to sit down and talk with each other.
“We want people to be aware and active [in the multicultural community],” said an event volunteer from the Caribbean Club. “Even if they’re just walking through we want people to know we’re here. It’s a good way to get a sense of membership and build a network. It’s also to spread knowledge about the culture. It’s good that people are enriched culturally here.”
She also talked about how important it was that people from the University of Maine have the opportunity to try new things and keep an open mind about the different cultures that surround them.
Although the event was advertised to celebrate the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the plaza was alive with all kinds of cultures and dishes. The American favorites, burgers and hot dogs, were served alongside black beans and Caribbean cuisine.
Though the event was advertised with flyers and FirstClass email announcements, people came to the MLK Plaza that afternoon for plenty of reasons: free food, a faster way to class and — simply — curiosity. “I heard music and decided to check it out,” an attendee, in line for the food, said. Others mentioned hearing about it through other peers and came wanting to see the event for themselves.
Those who stayed had the opportunity to shape their experience the way they wanted. As some grabbed the maracas and ethnic foods, others chowed on burgers and quietly took in the atmosphere. In the very least, it made the close to another long week end interestingly for students trying to get to their last couple classes.
Not everyone seemed excited about this, however. Some questioned with friends why a cultural event was serving burgers. Still, after the event had ended, people still lingered, discussing culture and the college experiences that bring every student at the University of Maine together, including conversation about busy schedules, difficult classes and excitement for another year attending the university.
At the University of Maine, there is an array of backgrounds and cultures on campus that not everyone otherwise gets the chance to be exposed to. With the help of events such as last week’s Fiesta, people who aren’t aware of the many organizations we have on campus have the opportunity to not only see them, but actively participate. More importantly, it allows people the chance to connect and relate to a large group of people of different backgrounds. Although not everyone can attend events such as the Fiesta, it goes without saying that those who did had a good time, setting aside the challenges of adulthood for fun and new faces.