By Greg Hugh, Staff Writer
The Festival of Nations (FON), the largest and longest running multicultural festival in Minnesota, will be celebrating its 80th anniversary this year during its four day run from May 3-6 at the St. Paul RiverCentre. This family-friendly festival brings together people from a vast array of backgrounds to celebrate their ethnic heritage. Through exhibits, food, music, dance, and personal connections, FON provides a look into the traditions, history and journey of over 90 ethnic groups, and sheds light on how each one contributes to the American cultural landscape.
Both the Chinese and Taiwanese communities participate in this annual event and representing the Chinese community is CAAM, which has been involved with the Festival since 1977.
According to Mingjen Chen, President of CAAM, her organization has already been making preparations to participate in this year’s 80th Annual Festival of Nations. “CAAM earns a large portion of its annual operating budget from sales at the Chinese Café” she stated. The CAAM Chinese Dance Theatre will also perform Chinese dancing and will be selling Chinese items at the bazaar. Chen estimates that it takes up to 200 volunteers to support all of these activities over the 4 days of the event. Over the nine years that she has been involved with the FON Chen also says that this is the only time many of the volunteers from the Chinese community see each other. “It’s like a reunion when many of these volunteers get together to help. They excitedly greet and hug each other and are anxious to learn the latest news from them.”
Since CAAM is involved in all facets of the FON, it does take a lot of volunteers so Chen invites anyone willing to get involved to go the CAAM Web site at
www.caam.org and click on the Community Services link at the top of the page to learn more and complete the volunteer registration form.
Following are some highlights of the upcoming Festival of Nations.
- ENTERTAINMENT – A wide selection of live music plus over 75 adult and children’s dance performances featuring brilliant costumes and choreography are part of the continuous entertainment at Festival of Nations.
- CULTURAL EXHIBITS – Community members will showcase their distinctive cultures through exhibits, with a focus on “Marketplaces of the World”. Festival visitors can pick up a Festival of Nations Passport to be stamped at each stop throughout the 60 cultural exhibits. Look for new displays from Liberia, Vietnam and Yemen this year.
- ETHNIC CAFÉS – Enjoy fare served around the world at 37 ethnic food cafés. From Swiss chocolate fondue to Colombian tamales to Tibetan momo and Norwegian lefse. Proceeds from each café benefit a local non-profit organization.
- ETHNIC DEMONSTRATIONS – Community members will showcase their distinctive cultures through interactive exhibits. This is a fun and interactive activity for the whole family! Many folk artisans practicing crafts passed down through generations and interactive, educational demonstrations will be featured in 60 different booths.
- INTERNATIONAL BAZAAR – Shopping from around the globe with booths representing 55 countries, with imported gifts including clothing, jewelry and artifacts from many cultures.
- THE WINE TASTING EXPERIENCE – This popular tradition continues to grow as International Wine Tasting returns for its fifth year. Patrons can sample wines from New Zealand, Spain, Argentina, Italy and the U.S. and visit with Festival of Nations wine experts.
- MINI LANGUAGE AREA sponsored by Concordia Language Villages – Learn new words and phrases in many different languages.
The theme of this year’s Festival is Ethnic Celebrations and Events and to learn more about the event go to www.FestivalOfNations.com.