Bigger and better International Village planned for this year’s ClovisFest

Ribbon cutting ceremony from the first annual International Village at ClovisFest, which took place last year on Oct. 29-30, 2016. (Photo by Ron Sundquist)

The second annual International Village, a special ClovisFest showcase, is expanding exponentially this year with 30 local cultural groups signed on to set up informational booths and share different aspects of their culture, including the nuances of their language, the tastes of their cuisine, the style of their arts and crafts, and the talented entertainment demonstrated by their cultural dances and the unique sound of their music.

This new element to ClovisFest promotes diversity and community outreach, and provides an educational experience for Clovis residents and those in the surrounding areas.

Despite having no budget and being solely operated by volunteers, the 2016 International Village attracted thousands of visitors, inspiring participants to build a larger cultural exhibit this year.

Linda Kuma, the head of the family-owned and operated Polynesian Club of Fresno, said the club’s group of 400 Polynesian dancers and musicians is proud to perform at events throughout the community, including ClovisFest. Now in its 47th year, Kuma said the club’s mission to teach young people the art of Polynesian dance and drumming continues, as does its aim to educate the community about the culture through song and dance. The International Village at ClovisFest is one way to fulfill the latter.

“Thirty-something years ago, Fresno had an event along the Fulton Mall called ‘Passport Fresno,’ where all the kids received a passport and were able to go from one side of the mall to the other visiting different booths and learning about various cultures,” Kuma said. “I really enjoyed that event because I love sharing the Polynesian culture. The International Village is similar to that. It’s a good way for people, especially children, to learn about various cultures and this is something that Clovis really needs.”

In addition to rotating all 400 dancers and musicians who will be performing throughout the two-day exhibit at ClovisFest, the Polynesian Club of Fresno will be teaching simple dance moves to those interested, as well as showing children how to make leis using Fruit Loops cereal as a substitute for Hawaiian flowers, and how to blow conch shells to make different sounds. Refreshing pineapple slices will also be available for sale at the Polynesian Club booth.

Another club returning to the International Village this year is the Iranian Culture and Art Club of Fresno.

The Iranian Club was established 26 years ago, starting as just a Persian language class for Iranian children. The intent of the class was to help second and third generations retain their cultural identity and language. The class quickly grew into a nonprofit organization that promotes Iranian culture.

Parvin Malek, who sits on the Iranian Club’s board of directors, said the International Village exhibit is a great way to introduce people in the community to Iranian culture and erase the negative stigma wrongly attributed to the Iranian people due to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

“The perspective people have on Iran is influenced by the information they find on social media, which is mostly negative, but what they don’t hear about is the culture and the positive parts of the country and this is a good opportunity to share that with the community and increase community awareness,” Malek said. “It is important to know that the current government in the Middle East is not representative of Iran, its culture and its people.”

While the public will have the opportunity to learn about the Iranian culture as well as many other cultures at the International Village, Malek noted it is also vital for different minority groups to learn about one another as well.

“Separate we are all minorities, but together we are a majority so it is important to learn about other ethnicities and cultures in the community and this is a great way to bring us all together,” Malek said.

The Iranian Club booth will feature classic Persian music, a dance group of 14-16 dancers, and a display of handcrafted items and artwork. Those interested will also have the opportunity to learn how to write their name in Persian and can try multiple times using a dry erase board.

Other community groups scheduled to share their culture and perform at ClovisFest’s International Village include: Arabic Belly Dancing by Andalee, Aztec Dancers, Celtic Motion Dance Company, Clovis Heiwa Taiko, Fresno Danish Dancers, Halau Hula I Ka La, Hmong Cultural Heritage Center and Museum, Indian Gidda Team, Iranian Culture and Art Club, Polynesian Club of Fresno, Scottish Society of Central California, Shinzen Dojo Aikido Demo, Svenska Boutik (Sweden), Svenska Kids Musik Club, United Japanese Christian Church, United Khmer Cultural Preservation, and the Wukchumni Tribe.

Valerie Shelton :