This past Saturday, the Agricenter was filled with huge flags, vivid foods, and colorful clothing—not to mention crowds and loud dance music.
For the past 11 years, the Germantown International Festival has celebrated Memphis’ diversity with authentic foods, informational booths and live performances.
Country delegations organized a booth, where visitors played cultural games (at China’s booth, passerbys used chopsticks to pick up and transfer beans from bowl to bowl) and tried delicious foods. The traditional food may have been the Festival’s best part: Greece booth volunteer Vicki Hoover commented, “it was fun to see everyone’s eyes light up going from booth to booth.”
Poland's booth (left) & Turkey's booth (right).
The booths had another treat, too: delegation volunteers excitedly shared information, as well as photos, books, maps and figurines about their country’s history and culture. I learned of several local organizations and cultural programs, like the Cordova-based Nicolaus Copernicus School of Polish Language and Culture.
While I learned a lot, one of my biggest takeaways is understanding the importance of festivals in general — especially when talking to Greece Booth volunteer Despina Karas, who spent the day sharing information about Greek mythology, the Acropolis, and Greek islands to visitors. Mrs. Despina recalled that several visitors, when first walking up to the booth and seeing her food tray, reacted with a loud “Oh, that’s baklava!”— a quick recognition that fully illustrates how Memphis’ local cultural festivals (like the Greek Festival) create a lasting educational experience for visitors.
That educational value was continued in the Festival’s 11 live performances, all equipped with traditional costumes, energetic music and fun facts about each dance. Being part of our Church’s Athenian Dance Troupe, Margaret Couloubaritsis (11) and I performed three dances, including a traditional 12-step celebration dance, usually seen at baptisms and weddings.
The Athenian Dance Troupe performing. (Margaret & I are directly under the Rotary Club banner.)
Margaret remarked, “The typical person doesn’t think I would do [Greek folk dancing]... At St. Mary’s, everyone seems so familiar. But when you’re outside of school, you see how different everyone is and how involved they are.” Sadhi Ganguli (11), who came to support us, agreed: “Supporting fellow turkeys and seeing them getting involved with their cultures was really nice. We tend to value sameness in SMS and seeing you both dance made me really happy because you embraced that part of yourself!”
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