Feat of ‘Feast’

Collage of culture draws over 1,000 attendees to annual community celebration

Feast of Nations 2018

The Rozmai Ukranian Dance Company from Folklorama Talent, based in Winnipeg, was one of four Folklorama acts to perform at Feast of Nations. The 56th annual celebration marked the second consecutive appearance by the Canadian festival as they supported local performing groups. Photo by Jackie Lorentz photo/ UND Today.

As an entrée of Bahraini chicken machboos — rich in Middle Eastern spices — made its way to more than 1,000 attendees Saturday evening, traditional Celtic music could be heard over the clinking of forks and plates.

Then when Sri Lankan cardamom spiced custard arrived for dessert, the sounds of a German Octoberfest beerhall filled the air.

It was a smashing smorgasbord of culture and cuisine at the latest rendition of UND’s annual Feast of Nations festival – the 56th – which took place Saturday at the Alerus Center’s Aurora Ballroom.

The band, Clearly Celtic, was responsible for the traditional Irish music, while UND Music students brought folksy German vibe.

True Technicolor

The combination of dishes and performances arrived from across the globe in a way that brought a black-and-white world into Technicolor, said UND President Mark Kennedy.

His experience as a child watching The Wizard of Oz transition from gray scale Kansas to the vibrancy of the Land of Oz informed much of his introduction to the evening’s events.

“Many of our students come to our school still seeing the world with more of a Kansas equivalent,” he said. “Our job at UND is to make sure by the time they graduate, that they can see in true Technicolor. This comes from exposing them to a wide variety of subjects as part of their studies, and having students from around the world bring different perspectives and views.”

As the largest cultural event in the region, Feast of Nations certainly fits the bill.

The annual celebration was organized in large part by the UND International Organization (IO), an on-campus student organization dedicated to spreading awareness of diversity and inclusion on campus. Also supporting was UND, HB Sound & Light, the City of Grand Forks, and Folklorama Talent of Winnipeg’s famed Folklorama festival.

Feast of Nations 2018

The Wushu Manitoba Chinese Lion Dance Troupe made their way around the Aurora Ballroom of the Alerus Center as one of the closing performances of the evening. Such a routine was traditionally reserved for emperors and royalty, but now it’s an important symbol of Chinese mythology performed around the world. Photo by Jackie Lorentz/ UND Today.

Cultural insights

Early arrivals had the chance to speak with students about cultural displays.

UND Space Studies graduate research assistant Anamika shared details of her native India at the cultural tables.

She focused on history, famous Indians, food, music, Bollywood and contributions to space technology.

“Events like this are very important because it provides a platform for everyone to interact with people from different cultures and nations,” said Anamika, who goes by just one name. “It helps to bring people close and understand diversity in cultures all over the world.

“I told the story of former astronaut Kalpana Chawla and how it inspired me to come to UND,” she said. Chawla was the first Indian-American woman in space and later was tragically lost in the 2003 Columbia shuttle disaster.

“I loved the idea of cultural tables,” she said, adding that this was her first time participating in Feast of Nations. “I couldn’t have been able to talk to such a large crowd otherwise. Not only could I share and discuss my experiences, but I also got to learn about others in exchange.”

Aligned passion

The Rozmai Ukranian Dance Company returned for this year’s festival, and the Quidel Chilean Folk Dance Group made their Feast of Nations debut with Easter Island influences in their dress and performance.

Folklorama’s 2018 ambassador Aileen Madden was impressed by Grand Forks’ enthusiasm and level of attendance — which is saying something, considering her ambassadorship is for the largest and longest-running festival of its kind in the world, with more than 40 pavilions spread throughout the city of Winnipeg, each representing a specific culture through food and dance over a two-week span.

“Because (Feast of Nations) is so well-attended, diversity is obviously an important part of North Dakota culture as well,” Madden said.

Fellow Folklorama ambassador Joseph Orobia added, “Much like Feast of Nations, Folklorama strives to entertain and provide cultural insight through music, food and dance.”

Madden and Orobia gave away a pair of unlimited access passes to this year’s Folklorama to two lucky Feast of Nation attendees.

Feast of Nations 2018

UND’s Korean Culture Exchange Club took the stage to spread the joy of K-pop during the 56th Annual Feast of Nations. Korea was also represented by one of the nine cultural tables available for attendees to visit before the program. Photo by Jackie Lorentz/ UND Today.

Community celebration

UND IO Vice President Nicholas Foo, who is from Kingston Jamaica, was this year’s master of ceremonies.

“We’ve had an opportunity to meet and work with fantastic individuals, and network with some of the experts in various departments at UND and in Grand Forks,” Foo said.

In his address to the crowd, Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown quoted President Abraham Lincoln in saying the Feast speaks to our best aspirations as a community.

“We are so grateful to live in a community that truly celebrates our diverse stories, backgrounds and truths in a community that prioritizes welcoming and inclusion,” he said. “It is certainly proof of the talent, ambition and competence that characterizes UND. It mirrors our goal to be the most welcoming community possible.”