Feast of Nations delights eyes, ears and palates

A thousand people attended the 58th Annual celebration, which has become the Alerus Center’s largest banquet event

The dhaanto, performed at the Feast of Nations by the Somali Dhaanto Group (shown here), is “the most popular Somali dance that is played nearly in every Somali festive celebration,” the Somali Museum of Minnesota reports. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

Editor’s note: The 58th Annual Feast of Nations took place at the Alerus Center on Saturday night. The spectacular event saw 1,000 people enjoy an evening of food, fashion, music, dance and culture, all of it presented by the UND International Organization and UND.
In this feature, UND Today presents a selection of photos of the event, accompanied by quotes from UND administrators, student leaders and others about the Feast of Nations’ planning, history and significance. Enjoy, and we’ll see you at next year’s event!

 

What began as a small group of international students sharing meals from their respective cultures in 1962 has morphed and grown into what is now the region’s largest multicultural event.
The event is organized by UND International Organization, a student-recognized group that is advised by staff member Katie Dachtler. The mission of this student organization is to enhance goodwill and promote an understanding of different cultures. The goal of this event is to celebrate culture and showcase the diversity of our international student body population.
Currently, there are 91 countries represented within the UND student body, and we hope to highlight a few of them this evening. As we begin the evening’s festivities, we want to thank our student leaders from the UND International Organization who make tonight’s event possible, and extend a warm welcome to UND faculty, students and staff and the entire Grand Forks community.
Thomas DiLorenzo
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
– welcoming guests to the 58th Annual Feast of Nations

After the Closing Remarks at Saturday’s Feast of Nations, students and others in the audience were invited to dance. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

This is truly the hottest ticket in Grand Forks. The food, the music, the dancing, the fellowship all merge into an evening of unparalleled celebration.
Our community is fortunate to be the home of so many diverse people and cultures, and tonight, they take the stage and the spotlight to constantly make sure that every day, every person – whatever their background – has the opportunity to thrive and succeed.
This event showcases the diversity of a community that has come from all around the world. It reminds me of the many people and cultures that make up the richness of this community. It reminds me how we should be mindful that an inclusive and equitable community is one that always strives for more. …
With nearly 60 years under its belt, the Feast of Nations has become one of Grand Forks’ longest traditions, which again goes to show how much this is a part of who we are. Tonight we’ll celebrate so many people, so many cultures, so much richness in life, from Latin America to the Caribbean to Polynesia. I can’t wait to take it all in.
Mike Brown
Mayor, City of Grand Forks
– welcoming guests to the 58th Annual Feast of Nations

 

I remember my first Feast of Nations two years ago. I was and continue to be inspired that Grand Forks, the community I grew up in, puts on such an amazingly inclusive event each year.
Abby Lund
President, UND International Organization
– welcoming guests to the 58th Annual Feast of Nations

Yiwei Chen, a student in the UND School of Law, plays a guzheng – a Chinese plucked stringed instrument – at the Feast of Nations. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

This event educates people on other cultures and bonds communities together. During events such as this, I feel supported and empowered. I’m originally from Nepal, but Grand Forks has been my home for a number of years. When I first arrived in Grand Forks, I downplayed my culture because I wanted to fit in. However, seeing events such as this has helped me embrace my culture, and this year’s theme exemplifies just that.
Ranju Dhungana
Vice President, UND International Organization
– welcoming guests to the 58th Annual Feast of Nations

 

I am so proud of all of you and the work that you put into planning this event. International students may choose to study anywhere in the world, and we want to thank all of you for choosing the University of North Dakota and for making Grand Forks home away from home. Our community not only welcomes you but is better because of you. You belong here.
Katie Dachtler
Advisor, UND International Organization
Grand Forks City Council member
– welcoming guests to the 58th Annual Feast of Nations

Feast of Nations attendees had the chance to take a “passport” to different “countries” and learn about different cultures from students at table displays. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

Feast of Nations began in 1962 as a social function for international students and then became a fundraising event for UND’s international students and a cultural event for the city of Grand Forks.
A local Lutheran pastor, the Rev. Douglas Ericson, who had ties to what was then Indo-China, worked with UND international students to create a small event held at the Civic Center in downtown Grand Forks. For many years, the international students and community volunteers prepared and served food, and put on the entertainment.
Under the auspices of various advisors and the directors and staff of the UND Office of International Programs, the event grew. Eventually, it grew too big for the Civic Center, and after the 1997 flood, the Civic Center could no longer host the event, which eventually moved to the Alerus Center.
Grand Forks Herald, March 10, 2012, on the occasion of the Feast of Nations’ 50th anniversary. The Herald on Feb. 14, 1992, included this report:

The basement of the Chester Fritz will become a big international buffet in the first part of the Feast of Nations program. People will be able to sample a variety of foods. Recipes have been provided by the UND International students, and UND Food Services will be in charge of the preparation. Students will supervise during the food preparation. … Some of the students, wearing native costumes, will greet people. There will be Russian live music, playing at the entrance and during the dinner.

In the second part of the program, people will move into the auditorium for a musical play by students and special guests. Students’ ideas were included in the script for the play, coordinated by Professor Michael Beard.

Clothing (as well as food, dancing and music) from many cultures was a highlight of the 58th Annual Feast of Nations. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

It started small, and it has become one of those things that’s just always identified with UND. And today, as I understand it, it is the largest banquet event that the Alerus Center hosts.
In fact, it can’t physically get any larger than it is right now. We cap attendance at a thousand – a hundred tables of 10. We sell the tickets out and have a waiting list. Which is impressive, because remember, this is a student-organization-managed event, and most student organization events don’t get the community-wide exposure that that one does. …
One interesting part of the planning is that the students in the International Organization conduct auditions for local, mostly student acts that want to come in and be a part of the event. They do a couple of those auditions, obviously far enough in advance so they can make selections and have that be part of the promotion. They also work with the people at Folklarama up in Winnipeg about what kinds of acts, what kind of performers, what kind of Folklarama professionals the International Organization students may select to bring down to complement the student groups.
Then, the Friday night before the event is for student rehearsal, and Saturday morning is a dress rehearsal with everything in place, on site at the Alerus Center.
And after the event, the planning starts immediately for next year’s event. Some of it started even before this year’s event; we’ve got Feast of Nations dates booked at the Alerus Center for the next few years, for example. So that kind of planning goes out multiple years in advance.
Fred Wittmann
Director of ceremonies and University events
– in an interview with UND Today

On the Red Carpet before the Feast of Nations began, attendees had the opportunity to have their photos taken by event staff. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

One of the greatest things about the Feast of Nations is that it is certainly an opportunity to celebrate. But also, you see students who are dressed to the nines, and they are so excited about being seen.
And I was reading something today from an Irish poet who suggested that the greatest gift you can give someone is to see them. And I really think that that event, the Feast of Nations, highlights this notion that students can walk away feeling like people have seen them for who they are and can embrace them for all of the different dimensions of their identity – sometimes, maybe not those dimensions that are normally shared on campus.
It was another great event. And I appreciate everyone who contributed to making it happen, because I know it takes a lot of work.
Cara Halgren
Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs and Diversity
– speaking at the UND Provost’s Forum on March 11