UND Today

University of North Dakota's Official News Source

Feast of Nations is a ‘diamond’ after pressure of long wait

Nearly 1,000 guests celebrate culture and diversity in grand style two years after last in-person event in 2020

Nearly 1,000 guests at the Feast of Nations took to the dance floor almost all at once when the regular program came to a close and the DJ started an up-tempo beat. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

It was all glitz, glamour and good times Saturday night when the University of North Dakota and its student International Organization returned the 60th annual Feast of Nations to the Alerus Center.

Two full years after the last in-person event, nearly 1,000 guests — all dressed to the nines in silk and sequins, suits and ties, and all kinds of festive ethnic garments — had waited long enough.

They were raring to go and ready to celebrate, said International Organization Student Advisor Courtney Davis Souvannasacd, who also serves as outreach coordinator for UND Rural Health.

“After all the uncertainty of the pandemic, all the need and all the want of the community to come back together, it was exactly what we needed,” Davis Souvannasacd said. “I was so proud of how the students all worked so well and picked up their roles to pull off this event so seamlessly.”

It was a full hour before the dinner and program even were set to begin, and a long line of animated guests already was snaking back and forth in the grand hall outside the ballroom. With their personal paparazzi in tow, all were waiting for their moment to be seen and photographed on the red carpet.

“It was such a joy to be back and see everyone dressed up and having such a good time,” said Monica Evavold, events and projects coordinator with Ceremonies and University Events. “The students take so much pride in their culture, and it’s so rewarding for me to be able to help facilitate their planning so they can come together and share their culture with the whole community.”

As the 60th anniversary of the event first organized to share a meal and celebrate culture and diversity on campus and around the world, it also was fitting that this year’s theme was “Dazzling Diamonds.”

A steady line of guests snaked back and forth outside the ballroom. Everyone dressed in their finery wanted their moment on the red carpet. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

On the printed program, International Organization President Ananth Ramaseri Chandra included a greeting that stated: “This year, we strive to recognize how we handle different pressures in life, yet still grow out of them to become better people — like a diamond being formed under intense pressure.”

The theme was carried throughout the ballroom with its elegant tables draped in black linens and topped with sparkling centerpieces. Further, the four-course meal included delicacies from nations known for their diamond mines.

Diners feasted on an Ajvar appetizer from Serbia, Red Borscht soup from Ukraine and either Chicken Ntaba from Congo or Chakalaka from South Africa. For dessert, there was Pavlova and Anzac Biscuits from Australia.

Though it was a night filled with upbeat music, beautiful dancing and a spectacular light show, there also was a moment for quiet reflection.

Tamba-Kuii Bailey, special assistant to the president for Diversity & Inclusion, called on everyone to “think of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine this evening.”

“We are reminded that we are a global community. We are reminded that we are responsible — all of us — for global peace and for global justice,” Bailey said. “And so it is through our international partners, and UND’s commitment to training and learning from so many of the best minds from around the globe, that I believe we are cultivating the leaders of tomorrow who will work for peace, for social justice and to build a better global community.”

But the evening ended on a definite high note when almost simultaneously the crowd rushed the dance floor when the main program came to a close and the DJ started up a rocking beat.

“That was a standstill moment to see how happy everyone looked,” Davis Souvannasacd said. “The smiles on students’ faces can’t be emulated through text or print. It was just perfect.”

The group Destiny performed an Afro-Caribbean dance number representing the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Haiti and the African-American community. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.
Guests had the chance to learn about various cultures by visiting booths, including the one above that featured Cameroon. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.