The 30th annual Ethnic Festival and World Language Day took place on Saturday, May 1. It was a rousing success thanks to so many people who worked or performed at the festival. Even the weather cooperated this year! There were a few glitches for which we apologize – for one, several flags, including our Israeli flag, disappeared. That is a rare circumstance and will be taken care of for next time.

Three marching bands from Julian and Brooks middle schools, and from Oak Park and River Forest High School, led a lively pace in the parade to kick off the festival. Tumbling for Success wowed the audience with their high flying flips across the sky, while clowns, Bea Koza and Pat Dalton, painted the faces of excited kids.

Thank you to this year’s festival sponsors: Cadbury Schweppes, Center for Cultural Interchange, Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest, Dominick’s Finer Foods (River Forest), Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, Jewel Foods (River Forest, Oak Park on Roosevelt Road and on Madison Street), Nine & Up, Oak Park Area Arts Council, Oak Park Visitors Center, Pan’s Food Center, Oak Park Peruvian Cultural Center, Tan Travel, Ten Thousand Villages, Tri-Star Gymnastics, Ultra Foods (Forest Park), Under the Ginkgo Tree Bed & Breakfast, Oak Park Public Library, and Wednesday Journal.

Our outstanding masters of ceremonies were Janis Fuller and Lou Anne Johanssen. Our standard student performers were excellent as usual: Julian Chorus, Beye School Jazz Band and Gospel Choir, and Young Children’s Chorus; Lincoln Spanish Immersion and Peruvian Dancers; World Language classes from Hatch, Irving, and Beye; Longfellow’s Kuumba Kids, Jazz Band and Lark Singers; and Irving’s Multicultural Dance Troupe. Other performing groups from the community were also spectacular: Chinese Dancing Daughters, Oak Park Peruvian Cultural Center, Maiden Street School of Traditional Dancing and Foy School of Traditional Irish Dancing, Peruvian Folk Dance Center, Julia Huff; and the Busa Family of African Drumming and Dance. Gracing our stage for the first time was The Chicago Cossacks, who got the audience moving with the “Chicken Dance” and the “Hokey Pokey.”

Delicious meals and treats were provided by: #1 Chop Suey, Robinson’s # 1 Ribs, Jamaican Grill, Angin Mamiri, New Pot, Stella’s Market and Catering, Batts Enterprises, Oak Ice Cream and the Multicultural Education Department.

The International Bazaar was a great success with area vendors like Accents by Fred, Eastwood Expressions, Jewel Tree, Mother Earth American Crafts, Usbourne Books, Ten Thousand Villages, Native American Crafts, Copper Candy, and cultural displays by Ruth Radnitzer (Scandanavian) and Lisa Peters (German) and the Oak Park Historical Society.

This 30th year of celebrating diversity in an ethnic festival is a milestone that symbolizes who we are in Oak Park. If you missed it on Saturday, I hope you will join us next time! It really is something very special for our village.

Lynn Allen is an administrator for the Multicultural Education Department of Oak Park Elementary School District 97.

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