Harumi Tamaoki and Naoko Nakamura, two members of Yamabiko Taiko, pound out a rhythm during the 2016 OneWorld Multicultural Festival. (Western News file photo)

Celebrating diversity in the South Okanagan

Festival celebrates the world of cultures in the South Okanagan

A chance to tour the world without travelling far from home is coming to Penticton on Feb. 24.

The annual OneWorld Multicultural Festival gives residents the chance to taste and explore the wonders of different cultures represented by new and settled immigrants living and working in the region, demonstrating a multitude of arts and crafts, foods, merchandise and musical performances.

Last year, there were 27 cultures represented at OneWorld, which is organized by South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services. Organizer Tahira Saeed said that for 2018, they’ve beaten the goal of 30 cultures they set for themselves last year.

“This time we are representing 34 different cultures,” said Saeed adding they are waiting for a 35 group to say yes or no.

That’s still only a portion of the number of cultures with members making their homes in the South Okanagan, according to Saeed, explaining that SOICS serves about 1,600 clients each year. Last year, that included people from 81 different countries.

Some cultures, we don’t have too many. For example Ethiopia, we only have one client from Ethiopia,” said Saeed.

“The main focus of this event is that it is inclusive. Entry is free and we want the entire South Okanagan to come and celebrate diversity,” said Saeed.

“We are looking forward to seeing families enjoy the event. It is a moving experience which brings together our entire community to celebrate the gift of diversity in the South Okanagan-Similkameen region,” said Tahira Saeed, SOICS program manager.

This year, the festival will run through all four ballrooms at the Lakeside Resort, who offered to donate more space after seeing how many visitors came to last year’s festival.

Saeed said the turnout was a surprise for the organizers.

“I told my team if we could attract 1,001 attendees, I will be very happy and it will be a success. We were quite overwhelmed when we had more than 2,000 attend,” said Saeed. “Lakeside Resort offered us the entire four ballrooms for this year and I thought that was a very generous gesture from them. We said yes three days later.

“It is getting bigger, and more and more people want to try different things. Each year we try to have a new set of clients come and participate. It is a lot of work for my team, but my team is very well equipped to put on this festival.”

The 2018 OneWorld Festival features 15 food vendors, 18 information booths and 12 merchandise vendors and 11 performances, including a singer from Mozambique, First Nations, Thai dancers, Japanese drumming and more.

Admission to the OneWorld Multicultural Festival is free, and more information about the festival is available at its event page on Facebook or the SOICS website.

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