Noble Academy Columbus CYSP team went to Columbus International Festival on the 12th of November, 2016. Students had a chance to explore different cultures. Some of our students were interviewed by Columbus Dispatch.
“In just a little more than an hour their passports were filled with stamps from countries around the globe.
The four boys from the Noble Academy Columbus charter school learned how to write their names in Japanese. They watched children from India perform a dance to honor their heritage. They discovered the smell of Jamaican curried goat. They now know that in Poland the word for peace is “pokoj.”
And on their journey around the Columbus International Festival, the elementary school-aged boys added to the melting pot of different cultures. Bedri is Japanese and Turkish. Mohammed and Khalid are Somalian. Jimmy is Vietnamese.
“Getting to know each other has never been more important,” said Emre Ozyurek, a math teacher at Noble. “And we think being introduced to different cultures is one of the best ways to do that.”
The 61st annual international festival opened Saturday at the Celeste Center at the state fairgrounds and will continue today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and $2 for kids under 12.
About 7,000 people are expected to attend the festival that features performances, music, food and materials from 51 different countries and more than 70 vendors.
Dr. J.S Jindal, a retired dentist and festival chairman, said the event’s focus remains connecting the city’s diverse cultures together. But it also provides help for families on many fronts. The festival provides free health screenings, administers as many as 300 free flu shots, teaches children to ride bicycles, educates families on fire safety for their homes and allows people to ask questions of officials from city hall.
“This is a way for us to unite and learn what each other is about,” Jindal said. “There is a fear of the unknown and as soon as I see that you are not like me the tendency is to close myself. But after a few minutes you see we are all human no matter what our race or religion and this festival helps solve that problem.”
The highlight for many of the festival goers, especially kids, is receiving a free mock passport and then collecting the country stamps from each exhibit. Trae Eaglowski, 13, of Canton, and Parker Brennan, 14, of Massillon, were comparing their stamps outside the Arab Americans of Central Ohio exhibit when they were asked about stereotypes facing Muslims. Their responses brought smiles to those around them and gave hope to some fearing what the future might hold for minorities in America.
“People are people,” said Eaglowski, who was in the middle of negotiating three Arab souvenirs for $7. “We learn and live in different ways but we are all on this Earth together. We should embrace each other instead of judging each other.”
“I have never been out of Ohio except for a (Washington) D.C. trip,” Brennan said. “What makes our country the best is it’s diversity and I don’t have to travel around the world to find it. It’s right here.”
Suhail Zidan, president of the local Arab group, was quick to point out that not all Arabs are Muslim. He said the festival is a perfect setting to offset stereotypes.
“Most Americans, unless they know an individual, only have contact with Arabs from television and that is usually negative,” said Zidan, of Dublin. “So even if it’s for a minute here we want people to have a good encounter with an Arab-American.”
Some at the festival came for the food. They wanted to try a Brazilian orange cookie or a Turkish simit (it looks like a bagel but it’s not), Ethiopian lentil stew or that Jamaican curried goat. Or learn how to make a Polish Easter cake, chocolate blocks or pecan cookies.
Some grooved to the music on stage while their little ones colored pictures of children from Peru, Holland, Italy, Ireland, China and several other countries.
“We want the experience for children to be multicultural,” said Laura Jurcevich, a festival committee member who planned activities in the children’s area. “But most of all we want the children create whatever feels fun.”