Music, dance and cultural expression took center stage during the 45th annual Clovis Fest.
The Old Town Clovis gathering organized by the Clovis Chamber of Commerce took place October 26th and 27th.
For the fourth year, the event has included an International Village featuring cultural performances and booth displays representing the different ethnicities that make up the Central Valley.
“With over 25 different organizations and dance groups the event continues to grow each year,” said Priscilla Montell, International Village Coordinator and Administrative Manager for the Clovis Chamber of Commerce. “We have seen this event grow tremendously and see this becoming one of the main attractions within Clovis Fest.”
The International Village moved from its old location at 8th and Pollasky to the center of the action, in front of Centennial Plaza at Bullard and Pollasky.
Performances ran from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a different group taking the stage each half-hour. This year’s lineup included: Sunnyside High School Folklorico, Arax Armenian Dancers, Celtic Motion Dance Company, The Indian Village, Clovis Heiwa Taiko, SWOCC, Aztec Dance Yoztaltepeh, Fresno Polynesian Club, Brazen Tassel Tribal Belly Dancing, Lee Educational & Heritage Foundation, Persian Dancers, Celtic Motion Dance Company, Ntxhais Tawag Tshiab, Purposed II Praise School of Dance, Fresno Danish Dancers, Community Culture Dance, Fresno Basque, Bollywood Choreography by Purvi Shah, Lao Community Cultural Center of Fresno and Diablos De Juxtlahuaca, Oaxaca, Mexico.
“Some of these participants have been with the event since year one and have such a passion to see the event grow,” Montell said.
The Polynesian Club of Fresno is one of the groups that have been taking part since the International Village first launched.
“We are so excited that there is a venue like this in the Central Valley where we can celebrate the different cultures of our area,” said Martha Leina’ala Kuma, the Artistic Director for Polynesian Club of Fresno. “It’s important to us to be able to share our Polynesian culture.”
Sixty dancers and drummers from the Polynesian Club of Fresno took part this year. The club was founded 48 years ago by Kuma’s father, Kolei. He was from Tonga and wanted to create a way to share his culture with others.
“We meet people at events like this that say the music really inspires them,” Kuma said. “So we say, great come dance.”
The Polynesian Club of Fresno teaches dance and music at their studio at Ashlan and Valentine. Students don’t need to be Polynesian to take part. Kuma says events like Clovis Fest show that you can be Polynesian “at heart.”
The audience watching the performances at the International Village was diverse. Some stayed for a few minutes, some for hours.
Karen and Jack Davids of Fresno came to Clovis Fest specifically to enjoy the sights and sounds of the performers. At 1:30 p.m. on Saturday they had already enjoyed over two hours of entertainment and were looking forward to more.
“I just like to see all the different costumes, the music and the dancing,” Jack Davids said. “Where else are you going to get a bunch of culture in one place?”
His wife applauds the Clovis Chamber for putting together an event like this. “I think it’s a good idea,” Karen Davids said. “They say dance is the international language. It brings all the different cultures together.”
In addition to the performance stage, the International Village was made up of booths featuring information about the different cultures and the countries they originate from.
Zar Der Mugrdechian was manning the Armenian booth. She said people of all ages and ethnicities were stopping by.
“It’s really exciting. I like seeing the cultures mixing and talking to each other,” Der Mugrdechian said. “A lot of people come and ask questions about the different countries. They really want to learn.”
The International Village’s passport program, sponsored by The Fresno/ Clovis Convention and Visitors Bureau encourages people to mingle. Participants took their passport to the different booths at the International Village. If they took part in an activity at the booth, they received a stamp. People that visited all the booths and completed the activities could enter a raffle to win a Google Chromebook.
Ryan Amiri Kashani, a fifth grade student from Fugman Elementary in Clovis said he enjoyed doing the activities and learning about the different cultures. “Something that caught my eye is all the instruments,” Kashani said. He especially liked learning about the African drums.
The Clovis Chamber of Commerce plans to continue growing the International Village at Clovis Fest.
“More than ever we want our community to come together,” Montell said. “We want to showcase all the cultures and ethnicities in the central valley and Clovis area. The idea to share and educate others on cultural backgrounds, embraces our diversity while unifying us as a community.”