Family smiles for camera in front of Brasil display during Multicultural festival

It was a feast for the senses as students and their families celebrated the 1st Annual Multicultural Festival at Tamaques Elementary School on January 25.

“To Egypt we go,” said one student to another as they strolled through the colorful and aromatic display set up in the school’s multipurpose room.  With 16 countries represented, there was much to learn about different cultures and traditions.

“The best part of the evening was not only witnessing how many different cultures exist in our community, but also the enthusiasm and effort demonstrated by all of the hosts,” says PTO co-president Gillian Kost who organized the well-attended event with fellow co-president Sarah Giannantonio and a team of parent volunteers.  “The pride brimming from each table was palpable and created an energy in our gym that I have never experienced at Tamaques.”

Kost says the event prompted many students whose families did not host a table “to inquire about their own cultures and heritages while learning about others in an immersive, colorful, and delicious way.”

“It was a learning experience for many of the adults, too,” Kost adds. “We brushed up on our geography and gained some historical knowledge along the way from various host families.”

The organizers estimate that about 75-100 families braved the rainy weekday evening to attend the festival, which included a “passport” for students to collect passport stamps for each country they visited.

“We suggested participants include educational information, such as a trifold that would display fun facts, including landmarks, cultural motifs, flags, and native language,” says Giannantonio who adds that country hosts also were invited to include interactive components such as crafts, games, food, and music.  “We encouraged participants to be creative and have fun and they really went above and beyond to provide a full sensory experience of culture.”

“I am very proud of our Tamaques community,” says principal David Duelks who thanked the country hosts and PTO for their hard work, creativity, and enthusiasm. “The turnout was amazing and it was wonderful to see everyone happy and genuinely appreciating one another.” 

Countries represented at the Tamaques Multicultural Festival were Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Macedonia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland, South Korea, and Ukraine.

“I love the food,” said one 5th grader while chewing, when asked what he liked best about the festival.

Another 5th grader expressed appreciation for the many countries represented.  “It’s important to get to know different cultures,” he noted.

Washington Elementary School and the PTO held their first Multicultural Festival last year, with discussions taking place at all of the elementary schools about implementing this tradition going forward.