Somerset Community College’s annual International Festival is always well-attended, but John Fryman made for an especially “hot” ticket on Thursday.
As crowds of students — college, high school — sat riveted on the SCC lawn just off Monticello Street, Fryman twirled a fire poi, a set of swinging weights that are lit on fire and twirled as a sort of dance, imported from the Maori culture of New Zealand. The danger and beauty of the art led to one top-notch show — and a mob of kids surrounding Fryman afterward hoping he’d sign his autograph somewhere on their skin.
“It was unbelievable to him,” said Elaine Wilson, SCC’s Director for Cultural Diversity. “He doesn’t expect that kind of thing.”
It just helped add up to what Wilson called “probably the best” International Festival yet in seven years. Around 400 people were in attendance, she said, with 250 youth from all three Somerset Independent city schools and even more from the county.
“We had a lot of extra community people who don’t normally come,” she said. “It’s probably the best one I’ve done as far as variety of activities, and as far as there being a lot of people there. I thought it was great.”
Ideal weather — sunny, not too chilly — helped and allowed functions to go outside. Last year, Lexington’s Big Maracas Band had to perform indoors, leading to a somewhat subdued reception. This year, they took the stage outside, allowing for a larger, more spread-out crowd and praise from SCC staff as one of the year’s most captivating feature presentations, showcasing the music of Hispanic culture.
Fryman was another outdoor hit. He’s been twirling the poi for about six months, after been shown the art by a friend from Idaho, and he’s been practicing it ever since. He noted that the Maori would traditionally use the poi to celebrate before or after a war. On Thursday, however, the poi was used to bring people together — in amazement.