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Festival of Nations celebrates diverse cultures

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Photo by Tauren Dyson. Tai Smith, 7, leaps to high five stilt walker Mark Lohr on Sunday at the Festival of Nations at the Tucker Road Athletic Complex.

Photo by Tauren Dyson. Tai Smith, 7, leaps to high five stilt walker Mark Lohr on Sunday at the Festival of Nations at the Tucker Road Athletic Complex.

Published on: Wednesday, May 22, 2013

By Tauren Dyson

The Festival of Nations event at Tucker Road Athletic Complex on Sunday drew patrons from within and outside of Prince George’s County to celebrate global cultural diversity through musical performances, food tastings and craft demonstrations.

The annual event brought in more than 100 people despite rain the day before. For some regulars, the thrills of attending the event never dry up.

“My son likes to come every year,” festival attendee Brooke Blackwell said. “He likes to fact that it’s something from all the different areas of the world.”

The Temple Hills resident said she and her daughter are reminded of their European excursions when Blackwell was still in the Army seven years ago. When the Moko Jumbie walks around the grassy field on stilts, she gets flashbacks of her time walking around various festivals throughout Europe.

The percussion from Senegalese drummers and guitar chords from Mariachi singers managed to coexist without clashing, as children of various ethnicities got their faces painted only a few dozen feet from fire-eaters.

But while some festival-goers approve of the event’s attempt at bringing cultural awareness to the county, others didn’t see much in the way of diversity.

“In all honesty, I don’t see any ethnic groups other than black and Hispanics,” said Carl Earl. “It all looks nice, but I’d like to see a better mixture (of ethnic groups).”

Festival regulars did take note of the rise in the number of Latino attendees from years past, something they attributed to the spike in Latinos within the county overall. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population in Prince George’s grew from 57,000 to more than 129,000 — or 15 percent of the county’s population. The majority of the immigrant Latinos in the county migrated to the area from El Salvador.

At the time, Earl admitted he hadn’t walked around all of the festival grounds, so perhaps he missed the heavy Filipino presence in the crowd. But in terms of food, most of the offerings were simple American fare, like barbeque sandwiches, fried fish, and funnel cake, without a strong blend of international cuisine.

Raymond Cohen, a Waldorf resident, is working toward his master’s degree in international studies at Webster University. The globetrotter has bounced around from Central and South America to Asia, and he felt the festival made him feel even more at home.

“The totality of one area having all these different cultures and diversity only reminds me of the U.S.,” Cohen said.

Much of the experience involves engaging in activities with people from different backgrounds, with hopes of bridging gaps with people from less familiar cultures.

“This is the only way we’re going to break down these walls and mistrust in different communities,” said Joseph Smith, a magician who worked the event. “They need to do more of these kinds of things.”

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