Annual Festival of Nations returns
By Andy Hertel
Photo: The Brazil delegation proudly represents its country at the 2012 Festival of Nations; photo: Hannah Funderburg
With World Cup fever bringing an international flair to summer festivities for many area residents, there is no better way to keep that theme going than by attending this year’s edition of the Troy Festival of Nations on Saturday, Aug. 16. This free event opens to the public at 2 p.m. on the Great Miami River levee near Troy Memorial Stadium, and features a parade of nations at 4 p.m. before concluding at 8 p.m. that evening. Parking is also free.
Founded in 1994 by the Mayor’s International Council, a citizens’ group headed by Ruth Jenkins, the 21st annual event has grown consistently larger each year and is expected to draw over 3,000 attendees in 2014. Each year, a different country is selected to be featured, and overall, more than 15 nations will be recognized.
“This year, we are very excited about the host country being Argentina,” newly appointed co-chair Brock Heath said. “This has special significance to us, because my wife’s father is from Argentina and the culture is so interesting. They have great food and are famous for their gauchos [cowboys] and, of course, their tango dancing. We will have live performances this year by professional tango dancers, which will be very exciting.”
Heading the Argentine delegation is Yasmina Landaburu, who has been involved in organizing the festivities for her booth the past several years before taking the reins as the featured country this summer.
“It is a fun activity I look forward to every year for the chance to experience different foods, music, dances and costumes from each participating country,” Landaburu said. “We are planning for this Festival of the Nations to have different activities introducing and celebrating Argentina culture. Patricia Paz from Tangos del Barrio will introduce the tango dance and songs. Also we will have a demonstration of a popular Argentine drink, ‘mate.’ This is a drink prepared with the yerba mate dry leaves and sipped through a ‘bombilla’ [straw]. ‘Asado’ [beef] and ‘choripanes’ [Argentine sausage] on the grill will be prepared by Mariano Rios, the proud owner of La Pampa Grill.
“With the World Cup on the news, many people are getting more aware of this South American country,” Landaburu continued. “[The] home of the tango dance, producer of fine wines, great beef and the cradle of several Nobel prizes, famous writers [such as] Jorge Luis Borges and [Lionel] Messi, our national soccer hero.”
Leading up to the event will be a dinner organized by the Hayner Cultural Center in July, while the festival itself will feature authentic and traditional food, dance, music, story-telling and arts and crafts, with open-air stages for ease of viewing. In addition to celebrating cultural diversity, the festival aims to promote meaningful international relationships and is funded primarily through donations. The opportunity to sample food from a variety of cultures is a highlight of the event, with many booths offering traditional dishes, and a food court featuring Troy-area restaurants and vendors.
Extra attention is put forth to provide a family-friendly atmosphere, with colorful booths, games and face painting geared toward kids of all ages. Also featured will be the Children’s International Village and the Historical Society’s Heritage Booth, along with an art project by Karen Purke, honoring the featured country. In addition to Argentina, other countries expected to have booths include Colombia, Scotland, India and Japan.
“The chance to taste food from many different countries and multiple continents doesn’t come around very often, and to be able to come to one spot and enjoy so many different cultures is a real treat,” Heath said. “I highly recommend people come and experience the Festival of Nations in Troy this year!
“My wife and I were named Chairman and Chairwoman of the festival this year, and this is our first year in that role,” Heath continued. “We have been involved with the festival for three years now. We participated in the festival before this year by being a delegate of Peru and manning our own booth, preparing Peruvian food and selling cultural items. My wife is from Peru, so it was a great fit.”
Beyond the annual Festival of Nations, the city of Troy is active in promoting international relations and cultural diversity in a number of other ways. The Mayor’s International Council also organizes the Sister City Student Exchange, a program coordinated with Takahashi City, Japan, where approximately 16 junior high and freshman students participate in exchanges with one another in alternating summers. This competitive program is largely funded by parents and students.
The Festival of Nations begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 16 at the Great Miami River Levee, 255 Adams St. in Troy. For more information, please visit troyfestivalofnations.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Andy Hertel at AndyHertel@DaytonCityPaper.com.