Each family weekend, students and their families have the opportunity to attend the University Programs Council’s Culture Festival to learn more about the diverse university community. The event, held at the McIntire Amphitheater on Saturday, featured food, entertainment and information from various cultures represented on the grounds.
“[Culture Fest] is essentially an opportunity for [CIOs] to show what they have to offer at Grounds, ”said Rasheed Christian, fourth-year student at Batten and vice president of outreach for UPC and co-chair of Culture Fest. “As it falls during Parents’ Weekend, this is an opportunity for families to see themselves represented through these organizations.
This year’s event marks the 35th annual Cultural Festival since its inception in 1986 and a return to the Cultural Festival in person. Due to COVID-19, last year’s event was completely virtual and consisted of contextual giveaways and online streaming of a cappella and dance performances. Unlike in previous years, this year’s event was organized solely by UPC rather than in collaboration with the Multicultural Student Center, due to difficulties in finding a student intern to act as the liaison between UPC and MSS. .
This year’s event was also held on a smaller scale, with around five CIOs less than usual. However, the event was no less lively, and around 1,000 students and families came to support the various cultural CIOs performing on stage.
A total of 22 CIOs participated, including the Korean Students Association, AKAdeMiX Dance Crew, Polish Students Association, Filipino American Youth Organization, Ektaal A Capella and Hindu Students Council. Each CIO could set up a booth, perform, participate in the fashion show, or do a combination of all three.
Stands have been set up around the amphitheater to learn more about each CIO, their involvement in the Fields and how to get involved. Some booths even handed out food from the culture represented by their DSI or organized interactive activities for attendees, such as decorating fans at the Sigma Psi Zeta booth.
The event’s performances included cultural dances, martial arts, musical performances and fashion shows. Various groups of students, including the Hooligan dance club, K-Edge Dance Team and the APEX Dance Crew, presented dances.
“When it comes to CIOs at U.Va., There are a few that are generally in the limelight like UPC, UJC, Honor and UGuides,” Christian said. “I think cultural CIOs don’t really get a chance to express themselves… so I think Culture Fest is working well because it allows UPC to use our resources to put them in the limelight and give them time to introduce themselves. to the entire university community. “
Vietnamese Students Association, Hindu Students Council and Afghan Students Association participated in the fashion show. Throughout the show, students showed off their traditional clothes to fun and upbeat music.
“Everyone is having a good time – smiling, dancing, singing, clapping, eating – I live for this, and I missed it for [COVID-19], so I’m glad he’s back, ”said Christian.
The event also hosted five local restaurants – Thyme & Co., Little Manila Charlottesville, Milan Indian Cuisine, Al Carbon and Pearl Island. Caterers provided lumpia, fried plantains, samosas, butter chicken, Creole beans, chicken au jus, and Pancit noodles. In order to collect food, participants needed a small stamped paper “passport” at each stand visited. After receiving five stamps, participants could get food and merchandise, such as a t-shirt, water bottle, and stickers. With 10 or more stamps, they would also be entered into a raffle to receive a prize yet to be determined.
The passport system encouraged students to immerse themselves in the activities, preventing passersby from coming to UPC events just for free food and merchandise. It also contributed to the experience of visiting different cultures around the world as the students went from booth to booth.
The event was planned by the two co-chairs of the Culture Festival planning committee, Christian and fourth year student Shahira Ali. Hamza Aziz, second year college student and director of the logistics subcommittee; Adrienne Malcolm, second year college student and director of the community outreach subcommittee; and Anoushka Sarkar, a freshman at the College and director of the marketing subcommittee, also supported the preparation of the Culture Festival. Each sub-committee also brought together five to six general members, bringing to 18 the total number of students involved behind the scenes, excluding directors.
Since the Multicultural Student Center has chosen not to co-host the event this year, planning has started later than usual. Typically, planning for the Culture Festival would resume right after the UPC Welcome Week events ended. This year, UPC started coordinating about a month and a half before the event.
Thanks to the many members involved, the directors and their team were able to organize a memorable return to the in-person celebrations of the Culture Festival.
“I really like being able to see other organizations in the Middle East or just other cultural organizations in general,” said Zarin Khan, a fourth-year college student and member of the Afghan Students Association. “We get a space in a predominantly white university to be able to showcase and be proud of our culture, which I think is really important.”
Others came to support friends who were performing or speaking at their CIO’s booths.
College freshman Azhané Pollard came to see a friend on the OYFA show, but Pollard noted that his experience at Culture Fest gave him a refreshing taste of the great diversity within the University.
“I grew up in a place where there were only people who looked like me, so come [to Culture Fest] was really nice to take a look at how different cultures have different traditions, ”Pollard said. “We can also see all the cool things they’re doing.”