On Saturday, Nov. 5, culture was blossoming at the New Balance Student Recreation Center. International students and organizations came together to celebrate everyone’s cultures, food and experiences. Every fall for the past 29 years, the Office of International Programs, along with the International Student Association, come together to help put on the event, broadcasting others’ ways of life with exhibits, food, performances and activities. The event is free and open to the public.
“I think if Culturefest has a goal it’s to integrate international students and show what the University of Maine has to offer,” Brian Berger, an administrative specialist at International Programs, said.
This event, according to spectators, was bigger than it had been in previous years, with more people, food and exhibits. This is great news for not only those who helped make Culturefest as successful as it was, but also the attendees.
“I just dropped in out of the blue…It’s exciting to see all the cultures…I’m an alumni and to see all the culture here that wasn’t before is just tremendous,” Mike Zublik said. Zublik is a 1970 University of Maine graduate who received his degree in journalism.
This event was not only for the University of Maine or its alumni, however. Others living outside of Orono also attended.
“This is my first time going [to Culturefest], but I’m blown away,” Eric Duncan, a resident of Bangor, said. “I have a three year old so I was trying to find something to do today and I was just really impressed [by the event].”
As the event continued, more and more people came to witness Culturefest. Children in traditional attire ran around with their families, people bought homemade cultural foods and booths continued inform the public about their culture and home countries. For those who wanted to rest, chairs were set near a stage. On the stage, there was a whole roster of performances, from Chinese fan dancing, Russian songs, Open Mics to so much more.
“I feel at UMaine you don’t always have a lot of culture,” fourth-year international affairs and chemistry student Antonia Carroll said. Carroll also acted as Master of Ceremonies for the performances on the stage. “You get into a rut where you see the same thing everyday and with Culturefest, International students can go back to their roots and share them with international friends and share their culture with others.”
Others involved in Culturefest agreed.
“Culturefest is a great way to experience different cultures without being appropriative,” Kirsten Daley, a third-year anthropology student stated while running the UMaine Black Student Union booth.
“I think [Culturefest] is a great way to travel around the world in a short period of time,” Naedia Clarke, a third year pre-vet undergraduate student who ran the Caribbean Club table, stated.
Others took the time to talk about their culture and clubs specifically.
“We’re Hillel and we’re the Jewish organization on campus,” Caroline Porter, a first-year nursing major, said. “We meet to talk about holidays and events and we’re happy to be at Culturefest.”
“We’re presenting India with different colors to help promote culture,” Prateek Kunwar, a University of Maine graduate student in mathematics, said. Kunwar represented his native country of India at a table at the event. Cloths and other artifacts were on the wall and table, and many wore traditional clothes to help others get an idea on what the material parts of their culture looked like. Many other booths also had props to help paint a better idea to incoming visitors.
“It’s great to abide by traditional Chinese clothes [and spend time] showing people our culture,” Ruobiuy “Vera” Bai stated. Bai helped run the booth representing China this year.
“I love the authenticity of Culturefest,” Kali Pelletier, a third year undergraduate student in early childhood education at the University of Maine, said.
Although the focus is on celebration and education, Culturefest also has a competitive component. “We look at the display and how people presented their table…I was pleasantly surprised how local culture was also included. It meshed well,” Silvestre Guzman, the director of the Office of Multicultural Student Life and also a judge for the exhibit events, said.
This year, there were many prizes that groups contested for. The award of “Best Exhibit” went to Mexico, while “Most Informative Exhibit” went to Kazakhstan. “Best Food Presentation” was awarded to the Intensive English Institute. For the first time, there was a tie for “Best Entree,” with both Bangladesh and India sharing the prize. German Club, as they have for almost every year, according to the coordinator for international programs and outreach Sayoko Mori, won “Best Dessert.”