Community Culture Fest Celebrates Diversity

Elizabeth Dobbins, Staff Writer

The Community Festival and the Culture Festival are combining this weekend to form one culture-centered event that will take place this Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. in Tappan Square. The two festivals, which used to fall on consecutive weekends, were ultimately combined in an effort to streamline and expand the event.

Sponsored by the College, the City of Oberlin, Oberlin’s International Student Organization, Oberlin Young Educators, the Spanish in the Elementary Schools Program, and the Oberlin Center for Languages and Cultures, the festival will serve as a celebration of different cultures and provide an opportunity to bring the town and college together.

“I just want everyone to come out, enjoy the uniqueness of Oberlin, celebrate it and just enjoy our community,” said Maggie Robinson, the administrative secretary of the College’s Office of Community and Government Relations.

“I believe it will just make the celebration even bigger and better and it will just open it up to another dynamic,” said Robinson. “It was a good combination because you don’t have to come back to the square on the weekend and then go back on another weekend when everything can be done inclusively.”

“The Culture Festival has slightly stronger emphasis on different languages and cultures than, say, U.S. Anglo languages. Whereas the Community [Festival] was… to bring together the college and community. That said the Community Festival also had an idea of celebrating the diversity of the Oberlin community and the Culture Fest also had the idea of bringing together the town and the College,” Sebastiaan Faber, director of Oberlin Center for Languages and Cultures and professor of Hispanic Studies, said.

As a result of the Festival’s expanded goals, the event now boasts a wide variety of activities and diverse representation: cultural groups and local restaurants will contribute food and the Oberlin High School Marching Band, Taiko Drumming, O Steel, Missionary Alliance Gospel Choir and a Conservatory jazz ensemble will provide the soundtrack for the day-long event. The Kendal Lawn Chair Brigade, Obie Jump, Dance Diaspora and OCircus are among the groups to perform at the bandstand.

“I hope the Festival is a fun venue for College students and community residents to join together for food, fun, music and more,” said City Manager Eric Norenberg in an email to the Review.

The community aspect of the festival also extends to the cultural groups who are represented at the event. Student groups such as Oberlin in Solidarity with El Salvador, as well as the community group Santa Elena Project of Accompaniment, an organization that promotes human rights for workers in Guatemala, will be in attendance. The Oberlin Center for Languages and Cultures has also been working with the college to help organize the cultural component of the event.

“One of the missions [of the Center for Language and Cultures is] to encourage knowledge about other language[s] and cultures,” said Faber.

Several departments from the city will also be participating. The Oberlin Recreation Department will offer crafting activities, the Underground Railroad Center Implementation Team will be sharing information about the second phase of their project, the Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System will be offering free CFL light bulbs, and the Oberlin Police Department will be making ID cards for children and running a bicycle auction.

The festival will also boast bounce houses, a tour of Tappan’s trees, voter registration booth, free blood pressure screenings from Mercy Allen Hospital, a Chinese lion dance, and crafts jointly offered by Ginko Gallery, The Allen Memorial Art Museum and the Firelands Association of Visual Arts.

“It is a celebration of Oberlin,” Robinson said, “and it is celebrating just all of Oberlin. Its uniqueness, its diversity.”