Culture Fest Promises Lion Dance, Salsa Music, Tasty Treats

Alex Howard, Staff Writer

Tappan Square will be transformed into a melting pot of music, food and performances from students and community members at the fourth annual Culture Festival this Saturday, Sept. 24.

“This is the first year that the city of Oberlin, the school district, the College, and the Conservatory are all sponsoring the Culture Festival, so it should be a wonderful opportunity for connecting not only with the many different cultures that Oberlin represents, but also with the many different people in our community,” said College senior Rene Kamm, who helped plan the event as well as design its website. “I expect a large turnout and fun times manifested in vibrant performances and delicious food.”

Student organizations representing specific cultural backgrounds — such as the African Students Association, Students of Caribbean Ancestry, Tanwir and the Oberlin Chinese Students Association — will be present with tables set up to share the multi-faceted dynamics of their culture and histories. Several of these groups will have food to share as well. The Japanese Association is planning to serve traditional onigiri and okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake, as well as the popular dessert treat Pocky.

“I’m excited for the Korean stand because last year they handed out recipes for my favorite dishes,” said College sophomore Sara Saliba. “I’m also super excited about the Pocky because I think everyone at Oberlin needs to try it.”

Other students echoed Saliba’s excitement over the festival’s food options.

“I’m looking forward to the Mexican food stand because it reminds me of home,” said College sophomore Maria de Luna.

Student music groups will also be present at the Culture Festival, such as the Obertones, the only all-male a cappella group on campus. OSteel will be performing a steel drum show of predominantly pop songs from Trinidad, and the Oberlin College Democrats will have voter registration forms available.

While the Culture Festival will serve to celebrate the different cultures and backgrounds represented on campus, it will also celebrate the different cultures represented in Oberlin and Lorain County as a whole. There will be a performance from the Lorain Hungarian Folk Dancers featuring traditional dances in full costume.

College Senior Nadia Safa, who has been involved in the planning of the Culture Festival for the past three years, is especially excited for the Hungarian Folk Dance, one of her favorite performances from previous years.

“Last year the children were adorable and brought a completely different atmosphere to the festival, since we were so used to having adults on stage,” said Safa. “I can’t wait to see what they will be performing this year.”

There will also be College and community members present to discuss options for students to explore different cultures firsthand. Representatives from the Offices of Study Away and Winter Term will be present, as well as representatives from specific programs in Puebla, Mexico and Morocco.

The Santa Elena Project of Accompaniment, a local coalition of different organizational and individual community members, focuses on human rights work in Guatemala, while maintaining a dedicated relationship with a community of Mayan families living in Santa Elena. Oberlin students have participated in Winter Term projects with SEPA, and students will have the opportunity to learn more about Mayan culture and the history of conflict in Guatemala at the SEPA table while devouring frozen chocolate bananas, a tasty treat common in rural Guatemala. Safa says that she anticipates this year’s festival to be the biggest and most diverse in its four-year history, and has high expectations for the impact it can have on the Oberlin community.

“Oberlin is home to people from all over the world, and to ignore such a unique amalgamation of cultures and individuals would be such a shame,” said Safa. “There is always something new to learn about the world, and inspiring people to engage in a new culture is something I advocate, and hopefully through the Culture Festival we can somehow create an environment of acceptance and learning.”