International Village expanding in Year 3

Hmong dancers performing on stage during the 2017 International Village at ClovisFest. (Ron Sundquist/Clovis Roundup)

What started as a diverse idea has steadily grown into one of the most popular attractions at ClovisFest.

That attraction is known as the International Village, a cultural showcase featuring over two dozen cultural groups from up and down the Central Valley.

During the two-day ClovisFest, participating clubs and organizations share aspects of their culture (music, food, art, etc.) in order to to give the public a deeper understanding of their heritage and traditions. Some groups even offer live entertainment by demonstrating their unique music and forms of dance.

“The International Village segment of ClovisFest is a local celebration of all cultures and backgrounds here in the Central Valley,” said event co-organizer Karey Cha with the City of Clovis. “Usually, we have anywhere between 20-30 different groups from Bakersfield all the way up to Sacramento that join us in celebrating the diversity here in this part of California.”

One of the returning participants for this year is the Indian Gidda Team, managed by Puneet and Neelima Bhargava. The couple is looking forward to once again present its vibrant Hindu culture. One of the ways is by displaying and allowing visitors to try on traditional Indian clothing. Those interested will also have the opportunity to write their name in Hindi using a dry erase board.

“I feel like this kind of event brings the community together,” said Neelima. “People are able to interact with others and get to know about the different cultures.”  

Other confirmed participating groups include: Central California Society of India, Scottish Society of Central California, Lao Community Cultural Center of Fresno, Andalee and the Eastern Sun Dance Company, Fresno Basque Club, Armenian General Benevolent Union, Celtic Motion Dance Company, Iranian Culture and Art Club of Fresno, United Khmer Cultural Preservation, Polynesian Club of Fresno, Svenska Kids Musik Club and Hālau Hula I Ka Lā.

Polynesian dancers performing on stage during the 2017 International Village at ClovisFest. (Ron Sundquist/Clovis Roundup)

This year’s International Village setup will be in a more central location, moving up one block from its original home on Pollasky and Seventh. The move makes the attraction more visible and provides easier access for visitors.

“It’s more in the footprint of the event [this year], which is really exciting for the groups,” said Priscilla Montell with the Clovis Chamber of Commerce, who also assists in planning the event. “They’ll have booths up and down Bullard from Pollasky to Woodworth, and the [performing arts] stage is also on Bullard.”

One of the neat features of the annual showcase is the International Village Passport, a program designed to educate the youth on each culture. It’s meant to serve as a fun and engaging activity for kids as it opens their mind to other cultures as a young age.

In order to complete the program, participants must visit all booths and engage in each organization’s activities. It may be a story or a craft or something that has to do with that organization’s heritage. After each activity, they get a stamp on their passport book. Once filled, the passport, along with their name and contact info, is submitted to the Clovis Chamber’s International Village booth for a chance to win the grand prize – a Chromebook laptop.

“The more influence we can have on educating the community on their backgrounds, the better,” said Montell. “I think that’s what really encourages them to continue to come out – an activity for the community to see and to get to know something about them and their culture. I think that’s why the passport program is a really good program.”

When organizers first started the International Village portion of ClovisFest three years ago, they did it as a way to add a little flavor to the two-day event. They weren’t sure how it would be received but moved forward with it anyway, and now that vision is paying off.

“We just kind of thought of it and went with it,” said Cha. “We didn’t think that there were going to be a lot of people that would participate but there’s actually so many different organizations and clubs out there that are interested in sharing their cultures, their backgrounds. Our community is excited about us bringing something like this to Clovis, so we want to continue to make this event bigger and better every year.”