by Chris Harris
Stepping into the Student Commons Building at Somerset Community College is rarely so festive as when you’re greeted at the door by a blast of horns and an energetic Latin beat.
Yet that was what students got to experience Thursday at the Somerset campus of SCC, thanks to the many men and women who made the eighth-annual International Festival possible.
Soggy weather could have put a damper on things, as many outdoor activities had to be moved inside — for the sake of both safety and convenience.
However, according to Elaine Wilson, SCC’s Director of Cultural Diversity, a little precipitation wasn’t enough to make the good times go away.
“The rain hasn’t hindered us one bit,” she said. “One of the things we planned for was where we could take people in case it did rain. ... In fact, we had the Parade of Nations inside this time, and when we had the announcement about the flags, it went so much better in Meece Auditorium than we’d had it before, so we’re going to try to do it again (that way).”
Wilson said that overheard visitors being “really excited about the day,” with nothing but positive comments.
Some of those excited individuals were middle school students. All three local public school systems and Somerset Christian School were invited to bring their youth to the festival to take in all the exhibits and performances.
“I’m just honored that we’ve been invited by the community college to participate in this,” said David Miller, assistant principal at Meece Middle School. “Our kids learned a lot of valuable cultural information about different cultures around the world.
“I know I’ve spoken with a couple of the kids already,” he added. “They said they really enjoyed the Egyptian current that have been going on. A lot of them were looking forward to the belly dancing. The flag ceremony was a great hit with a lot of kids. It’s just a great learning experience.”
Alex Ham, a seventh-grader at Meece, most enjoyed an exhibit about the making of colorful Japanese clothing.
“She was dyeing it similar to tie-dye,” said Ham. “It was really cool how they transformed (the fabric). It was a different texture, and it came out like a rainbow, really interesting.”
The festival also provided a chance for SCC students to show what they can do. A beautiful display of wigs on model heads (33 in all) created by the school’s cosmetology department was on display in the Student Commons Community Room, even while various acts — like the Big Maracas Band from Lexington, with its upbeat Mexican sound — provided entertainment.
“The students choose a country and research that country, and they set up a board display, with cultural facts that would be interesting to the public,” said Jennifer Owens, cosmetology instructor. “They also write a two page paper and set up a mannequin to represent that country.”
The public got the chance to vote on their favorite style representation; the winner got an expensive flat iron as a reward.
“People are really surprised at the detail that goes into the work,” said Owens. “It’s really artwork.”
Then there’s Dominic Rodriguez, an SCC student who took the opportunity to teach people how to make colorful Brazilian masks in the tradition of that country’s Carnival festival. Rodriguez himself is not of Brazilian heritage — his father is from the Dominican Republic — but he saw a chance to branch out and learn how to do something fun and new.
“I thought it was be interesting because I think the international festivals tie in great,” he said. “I thought the kids would love it. It something they can take home and build themselves, It’s about the memories.”
Just like the International Festival each year — it’s about the memories that are made.