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New festival celebrates multicultural heritage

Anita and her children Jerron (left) and Aaron are dressed in Korean traditional finery at Cranbrook’s inaugural Multicultural Festival, held Saturday, August 16, in Rotary Park. A large crowd turned out to see Cranbrook in all its global diversity. - Barry Coulter photo
Anita and her children Jerron (left) and Aaron are dressed in Korean traditional finery at Cranbrook’s inaugural Multicultural Festival, held Saturday, August 16, in Rotary Park. A large crowd turned out to see Cranbrook in all its global diversity.
— image credit: Barry Coulter photo

Though just a small town buried in the southeast corner of British Columbia, Cranbrook has some international flavour, which was clear at the first annual multicultural festival.

Roughly 12 cultures and countries were represented on Saturday afternoon, as volunteers dressed in traditional garb and sold cultural delicacies around Rotary Park.

"It was a big success," said Coco Seitz, the executive director for the festival. "All the cultural groups came together and did an amazing job on their cultural displays.

All the food seemed to be a big hit, as all items were sold out shortly after lunch, while a large crowed showed up for a fashion show that featured the traditional wear, she added.

"All the feedback so far has been great," Coco said. "Someone said it's been long overdue for Cranbrook and he was surprised at how many cultures are actually here in Cranbrook.

"...That's exactly the experience that we promised to bring people here, was a real, authentic experience without having to travel miles away."

Traditional cultures and countries represented at the festival included: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Filipino, Italian, Dutch, South African, Vietnamese, Ktunaxa, Metis and Canadian

The event opened with the Canadian national anthem, but every cultural booth got the chance to air their anthem over the course of the afternoon. Kids kept busy on the playground equipment and also at a crafts booth, which was run by volunteer students from the College of the Rockies.

Mayor Wayne Stetski and Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett also voiced their appreciation for the festival to kick things off.

"It has been such a pleasure to get to know all of these great people and to learn more about their cultures," said Stetski. "Why not bring them all together and encourage other citizens with an interest in their cultures to participate?"

Visibility and education was one of the main goals of the festival, which seemed to be accomplished, added Coco.

That rang true for Kerry Ries, who is a native of South Africa and one of delegates at the booth, wearing traditional clothing and educating festival-goers about her home country.

"As a Cranbrook citizen, living here for 14 years, you're seeing people of different nationalities, you just realize how many there are and so this kind of event [could] happen," said Ries.

"For me, I just think it was amazing to see the the traditional dresses and clothing and different nations. For us to keep a grip on our roots here, is very important.

"...For us, to showcase South Africa, which itself is very multicultural—it was an educational opportunity, I thought.

"People don't ask us questions about who we are, where we come from, why we left or why we're here. You're Canadian and you kind of get on with life. So it was really a fun thing to educate people visually, as to what South Africa is about."

The Cranbrook Multi-cultural Society is a not-for-profit society that promotes multi-cultural awareness and mutual respect through celebrating diversity in the community.

The society has been in operation for a year and aims to host monthly cultural events and activities, while also supporting individual cultural groups with funding and shared resources.

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