The diversity of Nashua’s community was on full display at the inaugural Multicultural Festival at Elm Street Middle School on Saturday.
From Brazilian street food to African jewelry to Columbian dance to Japanese drumming, people of different cultures and ethnicities came together to celebrate Nashua’s acceptance of individuals from all walks of life.
Upon entering the festival, event-goers were greeted by a colorful display of flags from every country strung along the walls and ceiling as well as a buffet line that stretched from one side to the other and provided free samples of the international cuisine available throughout the city. Offerings included Lebanese food from Cedars Café, Chinese Food from Chen Yang Li, Thai food from Giant of Siam, Brazilian food from Gu-La Haven and Sabor Brasil Restaurant, Italian/Greek food from Giavani’s Roast Beef and Pizza and Columbian food from Latin Bakery & Multiservice Inc.
In addition to free food, attendees enjoyed a full lineup of culturally diverse dance and music groups, including Wadaiko Japanese drumming, Colombian dance, Garbo Indian folk, Mexican dance by Folklore Dance Academy, French sccordion by Roger L’Heureux, Kathak Indian classical dance, Nepali dance and Bolivian vocal performance by Manases, Dominican singer Denny Montes, Irish step dance and French group singers.
Wadaiko Japense Drumming instructor Jason Seymore commented, “Being a part of the first Annual Multicultural event and getting to see all the cultures represented today and everybody coming together just to enjoy each other’s company, that’s a big reason why I do what I do.”
Seymore runs the Hokuto Taiko Dojo in Nashua, the first and only school in the New Hampshire area to teach Wadaiko Japanese drumming. He saw the festival as an opportunity to spread the word of their existence and inspire others to learn the musical traditions of Japanese culture.
“As a nonprofit it can be hard to produce the funds we need to keep doing what we do and attract membership but we hope being a part of this event will make others excited to learn more about the traditions of Japanese Culture,” Seymore said.
Also eager to share their culture to the greater Nashua area was Bolivian dancers Janina Lopez-Carrasco and Andrea Solis Lopez, who were just as ecstatic to learn about other cultures in the process.
“It’s awesome that we’re recognizing that our city is diverse,” Lopez said. “And now we get to celebrate one another’s backgrounds, families, cultures while meeting one another and learning more about them.”
Not only did performances highlight styles of music and dance from all around the world, it also brought together individuals of all different ages and ethnicities from young Mexican folklore dancers representing the older generation in their choreographed routine to a Columbian folk band with members ranging from ages 6 to 60 to teenagers performing as part of the Garbo Indian Dance Group.
Indian group dancer Tina Tailor said, “We came a local dance academy that teaches all different types of traditional Indian dance and our instructor encouraged us to be a part of this. It’s really great to be able to represent our culture.”
The festival also featured professionally done Henna tattoos, an international fashion show, and a market place where a diverse community of artisans sold clothing, jewelry, paintings and an array of other multicultural products.
Some of the vendors were new to Nashua, such as African jewlery and art maker Carolyna Nakakueto, who recently moved to the city from Uganda.
“It feels really nice to see so many people around from different cultures,”Nakakueto said. “I’m really happy to be here.”
Also joining Nakakueto in selling their custom designed fashion pieces from different parts of the world was Owner of Mt. Everest Goods Suresh Neupane who offers handmade products from Nepal and Tibet and Maria Larios of Racho VIP, a store that sells Mexican fashion.
“I’m glad to be a part of this,” Neupane said. “Nashua’s is such an open city and welcomes everybody.”
Larios added, “There’s so much diversity in this city but we never know of it. It’s really interesting to see what people where in all different countries. I really love and appreciate these types of events.”
In charge of organizing the event as chair of the Multicultural Festival Planning Committee was Constituent Services & Cultural Affairs Coordinator at Office of the Mayor, City of Nashua Cicilia Ulibarri.
Ulibarri said, “Nashua is a very welcoming place and, with all these people doing great things in our community through their different cultures, we wanted to make sure to bring that together into some sort of celebration. Also, what better way to kick off National Welcoming Week than with an event like this where we bring all sorts of people together: dancers, artist, artisans, food vendors and just the community in general. We would love for this to grow and continue to make an impact in our community.”
Other members of the Multicultural Festival Planning Committee included Deepa Mangalat, Sylvia Gale, Elizabeth Berry, Jenn Hosking, Paul Janampa, Liz Fitzgerald, Sandra Pratt, Claudia Castano, Awilda Muniz, Samba Halkose, Becky Field, Dominique Boutaud, Martha Alvarado, Claudia Decker, and others dedicated to celebrating Nashua’s culturally diverse community.
The Multicultural Festival is part of Nashua’s celebration of Welcoming Week, an annual series of events where communities bring together immigrants, refugees and native-born residents to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone. It also acknowledges the City of Nashua adopting legislation to officially become a Welcoming City on September 2016.
“It’s so wonderful that we’re celebrating our diversity and our inclusiveness here in Nashua, the most diverse city in New Hampshire,” said Mayor Jim Donchess. “We want to welcome everybody from all cultural traditions, from all nations, anyone who wants to make Nashua their home. We love our community and the more people who come and add to the richness of our culture the better.”