Sunday, April 29, 2001

Festival celebrates cultural variety

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

        HAMILTON — The strains of tango music and the spicy scent of Indian food filled the air Saturday at Hamilton's 2001 Multicultural Celebration.

        People in Western dress mingled with those in national costumes at the event, which was held on the campus of Miami University-Hamilton. It was the second year for the festival, sponsored by the City of Hamilton's Human Relations Department as a way of showcasing Butler County's increasingly diverse population.

        Curtis Kovaleski, 9, of Loveland tried his hand at chopsticks at the Cincinnati Chinese Culture Learning Association (CCCLA) booth. With great determination, he used the utensils to lift M&M candies out of a glass dish and into his plastic cup.

        “Once you have the cup half-full, you know how to do it, and I'll show you the trick,” said CCCLA member Junhaur Jih, who supervised the Chopsticks Learning Center.

        He then helped Hamilton resident Kendall Jones, 9, grasp each slippery candy at its center of gravity. Kendall learned that chopsticks work the same way for left-handed and right-handed people.

        Volunteers at the Eritrean Community Association booth were celebrating their Independence Day a bit early. Association member Huda Kebede of Forest Park explained that her North African country won its independence from Ethiopia 10 years ago on May 24.

        “Our association members live all over the Cincinnati area, in Hamilton and in West Chester,” Ms. Kebede said.

        Steaming pots in the Eritrean booth contained ingera, a flat bread made of sourdough. Festival-goers could cover their ingera with an order of spicy beef, called zgni, or go vegetarian with a lentil stew.

        The afternoon festival pulsed to drumbeats, whether from the Cincinnati-based Bucket Boyz and their plastic percussion instruments or from small hands pounding African drums in the children's tent.

        “I don't think people in Hamilton realize how many different cultures are here,” said Rick Jones, executive director of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton. “Just letting people of different cultures encounter each other in an environment like this is more important than any kind of task force,“ he said.


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