Hundreds gathered at the Fredericton Exhibition Centre over the weekend of June 23-24, 2017, to celebrate diversity.
After years of good weather, this year’s Cultural Expressions Festival was held at the Fredericton Exhibition Centre because of the Friday and Saturday rain that forced organizers to change the location. Despite this last-minute change in venue, the Festival’s quality was once again stellar.
Funded by a variety of private and public organizations, the annual festival is organized by the Multicultural Association of Fredericton and run by tireless volunteers. They were thanked repeatedly at the event, where they dynamically insured a smooth running of the festivities.
Various masters of ceremonies gave bilingual introductions to the events during the two days of festivities, including Sebastián Salazar, who works for the city of Fredericton. Salazar said “it feels wonderful to help share a bit of the vast, wide world within the small-town feel of the Fredericton community.”
This year’s festival, instead of being dedicated to one country or region, was celebrating 150 years of Diversity, and featured a logo representing a stylized maple leaf with nine colours.
As in past years, the schedule of presentations was chock-full of acts, many prepared for months by local associations and groups. The schedule featured bands, chorales, shows, choreographies, different types of drumming, traditional and contemporary dances.
The show’s programme –promising “See the World in 2 days!”- read like a compendium of Fredericton’s multicultural community, including African, Filipino, Latino, Indo-Canadian, Iranian, Indigenous, Irish, Bhutanese, Scottish, Syrian, Lebanese, Indonesian, Chinese and Nepali cultural groups and associations, among others. According to Salazar, it is “a varied spectacle of different ways in which cultures share their values and experiences and customs.”
Highlights of the Saturday evening portion of the festival included the Latino Association’s hybrid performance which involved a Mexican day of the dead procession, a song by Oscar Solanas, a dance by Verónica Martínez and another dance by Miguelina Izaguirre. Izaguirre put together the seven-minute performance with the help of eight volunteers of all ages. Her inspiration was a painting by famous Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera, and his spouse, Frida Kahlo, also a painter and renowned creator. Ever-present on the local art scene, Izaguirre is also the founder and creator behind local creative troupe, Peekaboo Shadows Theatre.
Local four piece Irish folk group, Different Folks, played their best tunes for the audience. Katherine Moller’s fiddling was strikingly precise and just what the crowd needed to get excited about the last round of performances on Saturday night. Already an award-winning musician, Moller is releasing her latest CD, Storm Queen, on June 25th in Saint Andrews-by-the-Sea.
Also extraordinary was the young Filipino’s men’s dance called the Maglalatik, a dance piece that simulates a war battle and involves rapid arm and leg movements to tap coconut shell halves strategically worn on the dancers’ bodies. The young dancers got quite a workout running around the performance area to the crowd’s delight.
The weekend also included food vendors from most of the local communities, including delectable Lebanese and Indian fare, as well as vendors selling different goods. As usual, it was a family friendly event that left excellent memories while the Fredericton community awaits next year’s instalment.
Sophie M. Lavoie writes on arts and culture for the NB Media Co-op.