Ferris festival shines light on cultural pride

ADVENTUROUS EATS: Big Rapids Residents Fred Lawrence and Carolyn Ortega visit one of the many food booths during the festival, starting with a noodle dish from Asia. The pair said they attend each year and enjoy sampling food from different countries.

ADVENTUROUS EATS: Big Rapids Residents Fred Lawrence and Carolyn Ortega visit one of the many food booths during the festival, starting with a noodle dish from Asia. The pair said they attend each year and enjoy sampling food from different countries. (Pioneer photos/Justin McKee)

Hundreds attend event featuring food and entertainment from around the world

BIG RAPIDS — Cultural diversity was celebrated to the fullest extent, as about 40 unique cultures were represented during Sunday’s International Festival of Cultures, which attracted more than 1,000 attendees to the new University Center.

The event featured displays and booths showcasing different countries, and crafts were available for children. Inside the building’s large banquet hall, rows of tables offered food from Asia, Africa, South America, the Middle East and more. Musical, dance and literary entertainment filled the stage throughout the day.

“I think what keeps people coming is the food, mostly,” said Lisa vonReichbauer, assistant director of the FSU Office of International Education. “I think it’s exciting to have the opportunity to visit 40 different countries in one event.”

Each year, the event strives to celebrate the diversity on campus and bring people of all nationalities together, enjoying the unique pieces each bring. A sense of pride is definitely able to be seen by each involved student, vonReichbauer added.

“Our students are so excited to share their cultures,” she said. “You can feel their energy here.”

Louis Arokiasamy, a Ferris professor who teaches English to international students, was helping serve fare from his Malaysian culture. Dishes included mincemeat and potatoes along with a coconut crepe. Arokiasamy was happy to see so many individuals in attendance less than an hour after the festival began.

“We’re living in a globalized world and the more exposure we have to it, the better our understanding,” he said. “Ignorance is not bliss, and one way to break the barriers is through food.”

Arokiasamy believes residents of Big Rapids like to see the growing diversity of Ferris and enjoys supporting such a gathering like the International Festival of Cultures, as the event has become a mainstay at the university.

“I’m really delighted to see not only people from campus, but people from all around,” he added.

Big Rapids residents Carolyn Ortega and Fred Lawrence indulged in a rice noodle dish from Asia, and made a plan to have a sample of a custard from another country’s table they eyed on their way in.

“We come here every year,” Ortega said. “It’s fun, it’s nice to watch the dancing and the food is great.”

Lawrence agreed, following a bite of the noodles in broth.

“I look forward to the different bands and different music from all of the cultures,” he said. “We really like coming and it’s wonderful to see Ferris host such an event like this.”

FESTIVAL OF CULTURES: Sultan Alshammari, an electrical engineering student at Ferris State University, speaks with friends at a booth during the 27th annual International Festival of Cultures. The event took place in the new campus University Center and offered food, music, dance, crafts for kids and more from cultures around the world.

FESTIVAL OF CULTURES: Sultan Alshammari, an electrical engineering student at Ferris State University, speaks with friends at a booth during the 27th annual International Festival of Cultures. The event took place in the new campus University Center and offered food, music, dance, crafts for kids and more from cultures around the world.

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Posted by Karin Armbruster

Karin is the reporter for Osceola County’s Herald Review. She is the coordinator of the Health page, which runs in the weekend edition of the Pioneer. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8382 or by e-mail at karmbruster@pioneergroup.com.

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