Cultural differences celebrated at the 28th annual International Culture Festival

By Todd Harp
Flapjack Chronicle

    Different music, bright colors, diverse flags and about 350 students, faculty and community members filed into HSU’s Kate Buchanan room for the 28th annual International Cultural festival.

    Put on by the Center for International Programs, and coordinated by Jenn Soderfelt, with help from student assistant Jade Takimoto, the festival gave people from various cultures and backgrounds an opportunity to come together and celebrate diversity. This year’s festival featured foods, art, dancing, music and displays from around the world.

    Soderfelt has been with the Center for International Programs since June and even though this was her first time coordinating the event, she felt it was successful.

    “I am happy to say that it was a huge success,” Soderfelt said. “It went really well and better than I could have hoped for.”

    Soderfelt also went on to say that even though planning is essential most just falls into place.

    “There’s a lot of pre-planning involved. We have to get tablers, people to have information booths, as well as performers,” Soderfelt said. “I tried to do as much in advance as I could but with the nature of this event, everything just falls into place at the last minute.”

Students proudly bear diverse countries' flags at the International Cultural Festival.
Students proudly bear diverse countries’ flags at the International Cultural Festival.

  Otmane Ikinou, 20, an exchange student from Morocco, was the master of ceremonies. With only a short notice he said that he was honored to do it.

    “I was notified two days before the event,” Ikinou said. “I took it as a challenge, and it went well. It was a big honor, though, to host the event. I love it when people celebrate each other’s cultures, and put away their differences to find one common background that brings us all together.”

    Ikinou also felt the event went off well.

    “I think the event was very successful,” Ikinou said. “A lot of people attended it, and they all participated which made it better than expected.”

     The afternoon started out with the different cultures displaying their art and flags on tables set up in front of the auditorium door. Then one by one they either danced, played instruments or showed off their skills on the center stage.

    Samba Da Alegria, which is Humboldt County’s Community Bateria, or drum group, played a variety of material and interpretations of percussive folk music from around the world.

    Another group, Huayllipacha used a wide range of wind, percussion and string instruments to honor both traditional and contemporary music of the Andes.

    Strawberry Shortcake, an Asian pop group , formed by an International English Language Institute alumna Alice Kohno, showed off their Asian pop dance style.

    Humboldt Capoeira, a local Brasillian martial art academy,  featured music, rituals, kicking, acrobatics and take-downs.

    Chinese Student Scholar Association, dressed in beautiful red, white and striped dresses, performed Zhuoma, which is a traditional Tibetan dance that is performed during lunar New Year festivals.

    Ballet Folklorico de Humboldt  showed off their beautiful and colorful outfits as well as their traditional Mexican Folkloric dancing and sword presentation.

    Zoology major Daniel Gomez, 18, one of the sword and dance performers want people to know that they have classes that anyone can attend.

    “We have classes on Monday and Wednesday from 5 to 6 and on Sundays from 3 to 4,” Gomez said. “Anyone can come to the classes.”

    Those who are interested can e-mail Elizabeth Rivera at or for more information.

    Lastly, Craig Kurumada invited the audience up on stage and taught them two traditional Bon dances. Men, women and kids of all ages, danced in circles around the stage raising their hands, while twisting and twirling in circles.

    To pass the time in between each act, Ikinou held a Q & A forum where he asked the audience different history questions and with the help of some kids, handed out candy for each right answer.

    After all the performances and picture taking, the event ended with a horde of people lined up to try the diverse foods from all the different cultures which was laid out across two tables.

    Kinesiology students Shelly Garrett, 22, and Elena McCracken, 24, enjoyed themselves and said they decided to go when they heard about it.

    “We were studying in the library and heard about it and it sounded like fun,” Garrett said. “We are very interested in different cultures.”

    Tracy Gatumu, from Kenya, also enjoyed the event and said she attended because she loves culture.

    “I wanted to see what it is all about,” Gatumu said. “It was lots of fun and I love culture.”

    Sponsors and the faces behind the event have changed throughout the years, but the festival keeps growing every year. The estimation attendance, according to Soderfelt, was good and she is happy about the turnout.

    “We are thinking that the attendance is somewhere between 350-400,” Soderfelt said. “I am really happy with the amount of people here.”

    She goes on to say that she thanks all who participated and looks forward to next year’s festival.

    “A special thank you is dedicated to all participants of this event- without their creativity, knowledge, and kindness, this celebration would not be able to take place,” Soderfelt said. “We hope that you enjoyed the event and look forward to seeing you next year.”

    If you would like to contact the Center for International Programs, you can call 826-4142, e-mail them at, or visit their webpage at


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