On Saturday Nov. 3, the University of Maine hosted Culturefest, an annual celebration of multiculturalism, at the New Balance Recreation Center. While visitors upstairs completed their workouts, the downstairs was transformed into a global celebration, allowing attendees to experience international culture and cuisine.
The Recreation Center’s first floor was decorated with flags of several different nations. Representatives from many countries, such as Nepal, India, France, as well as campus organizations, including the Office of International Programs and the Black Student Union tabled at the event in an effort to inform the public and showcase the diversity on campus.
Many of the tables had activities for attendees of all age groups to try. India’s booth held a “can you climb the spice ladder?” challenge, where visitors to the booth could sample food items with varying levels of spice and see how far they could go. They also had the opportunity for visitors to get henna designs on their hands, an Indian tradition.
The Native American table had many cultural artifacts so that visitors could ask questions about their significance. Giving people access to cultures they don’t generally get to interact with is just one of the ways that Culturefest encourages inclusivity and understanding between cultures.
Cassandra Carroll, a fourth-year ecology and environmental science student, attended as a representative of the Spanish Language Club in the exhibit section. Their goal was to let people know about meetings and to converse in both Spanish and English with visitors.
“I think that Culturefest is a really fun way to exchange customs and culture, and gives cultural groups on campus an opportunity to reach out into the community,” Carroll said. “It makes me happy to see people get really excited about new foods they tried in the food court or something new that they learned from one of the exhibitors. I think it’s just a nice way to celebrate diversity and to bring people together to celebrate both our origins and that we’re all here together in our small Maine community.”
There was a diverse population of attendees; many were in clothing that represented their culture or religious identity. People of different ages and cultures mingled with one another.
Scott Soifer, a second-year business student, enjoyed one of the latkes, a traditional potato pancake originating in Jewish culture, from the Hillel table.
“It’s really interesting seeing and learning about all these different cultures in the area and how different yet similar we all are,” Soifer said.
He was happy to have the opportunity to walk through the food court with his friends, where a number of different represented nations were selling foods from their culture and sharing it with the various people ready to give it a try.
Some of the food for sale included Jamaican mango smoothies, empanadas from Chile, dangos from Japan and other food items and drinks for visitors to buy. Although certainly different from the cuisine of campus dining halls, there was something for everyone to enjoy.
The wide variety of cultures and backgrounds at UMaine contributes to the culture as a campus. Culturefest offered UMaine students, as well as members of surrounding communities, the opportunity to interact with and embrace diversity on a campus-wide platform. Be on the lookout for next year’s Culturefest to experience UMaine’s celebration of multiculturalism on campus.