Thursday, May 26, 2016

Travel in Chicago - Skokie's 26th Annual Festival of Cultures

It was a beautiful day for traveling. The sun shone and the temperature was warm. Arriving at Skokie’s 26th Festival of Cultures, we were given “passports.” The inside pages listed the 36 communities participating this year. We were excited to get started. Here in our backyard every year, we can feel as though we are traveling around the world.

Skokie, a suburb adjacent to Chicago, has a population of about 70,000 people of which about 55% speak a first language other than English. Immigrants from all over the world live here and over 70 languages are spoken. Twenty-six years ago, the Skokie Public Library along with the Park District and other organizations initiated this festival. As the community was becoming multi-cultural, they felt it was important to not only tolerate diversity, but to embrace it. Every year since then, the community has been coming together to celebrate its diversity at this Festival of Cultures. After all, once we’ve watched each other’s dances, sang each other’s songs, heard one another’s music, and tasted each other’s food, it is impossible to be strangers.

At the main stage, we watched the Serbian-Macedonian Dancers.
Serbian-Macedonian Dancers

Making our way to the booths, we stopped and talked to people from Norway, Sweden, Cuba, Ireland, Bangladesh, Croatia, and Bulgaria. If we had been to people’s countries, they were excited to hear about our travels. If we had plans to visit, they asked us to come back next year and tell them about our trip. Children came by and had their visas stamped. It was a good day for travel for them as well.

At the Swedish booth

Bulgarian booth

After exploring the booths, we returned to the main stage. We listened to a band from West Africa, and watched dancers from India and Bulgaria. I took pictures of the performers and was glad to see that everyone in the audience regardless of their ethnicity took pictures of everyone else. I like to interpret that as success. With that in mind, we went home to eat Greek salad and keftedes. Next year we will return to talk to people from other countries around the world. Who knows who we’ll meet next time. 

West African Band

Bulgarian dancers

Indian dancers


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