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Festival of Cultures honors local diversity

Organizers of the Festival of Cultures, taking place Sept. 24, say the event is getting so big that they're likely to outgrow their current location by next year. Photo bottom left by Zerep Photography.

Organizers of the Festival of Cultures, taking place Sept. 24, say the event is getting so big that they're likely to outgrow their current location by next year. Photo bottom left by Zerep Photography.

Now in its 10th year, the annual Festival of Cultures event offers Central Oregonians the opportunity to develop a better understanding of the array of cultures that inhabit the High Desert, and to witness diversity grow.

When asked about the goal for the Festival of Cultures, committee chair Margie Gregory says, "Maybe we're redefining culture."

For the past 10 years, the Latino Community Association has been organizing the Festival of Cultures in an effort to share the richness of the many cultures that make up Central Oregon. "Our primary goal is for people to know that there is a diverse population here in Central Oregon," says Gregory. "People think that individuals from different ethnicities and different cultures run around in costumes...if they don't see that, they think that there's no one here but people who kind of look like them. It's not true."

Attendees can expect to see a variety of service and product vendors as well as a diverse lineup of entertainers—including the Filipino Bamboo Dancers, the High Desert Celtic Country Dancers, as well as other singers and musicians. Local Latin music legends ¡Chiringa! and Miguel de Alonso and The Nomads will perform live from 2 to 4 pm. A wide variety of ethnic food vendors will also be on hand to feed the masses.

When Gregory first joined the festival's committee, her focus was the children's area, which is designed to introduce the concept of culture to the very young. She says, "We have a very large children's area...because we believe exposing children to this concept at an early age may make them more understanding and accepting of the richness of different cultures."

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While the festival provides a multitude of activities and entertainment throughout the day, the event's highlight takes place in the morning when a small group of individuals take an oath and become official U.S. citizens.

The Citizenship Oath Ceremony has opened the Festival of Cultures each year since 2010. This year, 25 people from roughly 15 countries will take their official citizenship oath at the event, which will be conducted by representatives from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"We start with the naturalization ceremony because we want people to understand that there are people all over the world becoming citizens," says Gregory. Special guest, Oregon Poet Laureate Elizabeth Woody of Warm Springs, is scheduled to provide the keynote for the ceremony.

Of Yakama Nation descent, Woody has published three books of poetry. In 1990 she received the American Book Award and the William Stafford Memorial Award for Poetry and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Awards in 1995.

According to Gregory, a minimum of 1,500 people have attended the Festival of Cultures in the past. This year she believes there will be even more. In fact, as the festival's committee looks to the future they expect to need a new and bigger home for next year's event.

Festival of Cultures

Saturday, Sept. 24, 10am-4pm

Centennial Park, Redmond


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