Everyone can relate to food.
"It just brings people together," said Terri Lockwood, event organizer and executive director of Appalachian State University's programs for academic affairs. "We sit with people we normally wouldn't sit or eat with. When you break bread together, it just creates a closeness."
And that's just the tip of the iceberg lettuce.
Food may play a prominent role in ASU's 10th annual Diversity Celebration, hitting campus April 6, but social harmony is the main course.
Though the event's Foods of the World component, cooked up by ASU Food Services executive chef Dan MacDonald, is one of its most popular, the Diversity Celebration, like the cultures it celebrates, is broad, enlightening and full of surprises.
With a day full of multicultural activities, including beaucoups of entertainment, craft-making, workshops and, yes, ethnic foods, the celebration strives to enhance people's appreciation of diversity and multiculturalism, while offering them a convenient venue to observe, participate and learn.
"The first year, we had two rooms in the student union, with about 200 to 300 students participating," Lockwood said. "The next year it grew, and we increased to five or six rooms with maybe 700 or 800 students. And the next year, it just exploded to where we took over the whole student union."
That's between 2,000 and 3,000 college students, elementary school students and community members, a number that grows by the year.
And when there's demand, it's up to Gus Pena to supply. Pena is interim director of ASU's office of multicultural student development and has compiled an ever-growing list of performers for the celebration.
"I look for performances that represent the kinds of things the community's looking for," he said. "We'll look for performances that reflect the kind of cultures that people want to see, and also what has been popular in the past."
That includes celebration staples like area storyteller Orville Hicks. "It never fails there's a new a crowd that walks into the room to hear his tales, and then they're fans for life," Pena said.
With a town and university filled with talent, Pena doesn't always have to look too far. Groups like High Country-based The Dollar Brothers and ASU's Steely Pan Steel Pan Band come to mind.
"If I close my eyes, I can hear the music like it was yesterday," Pena said of Steely Pan. "Just to hear the Caribbean tones playing here on campus in that April timeframe, if you think about it, that's something you would never expect to hear."
This year's performance lineup is packed with similar surprises, including performances from Gregory Guay; Lisa Kwong, Susan Pepper; Free Grass with Meade Richter Boone Scottish Country Dancers; The Dollar Brothers; Mexico Mariachi 2000; Carolina Klezmer Project; Bam-Jazz; The Butterpats; Kike, Miguel y Janiah; Amantha Mill; Three Graces Dance Company; The Lost Jewels of the Ghawazee Belly Dance and Middle Eastern Dance Troupe; Davidson River Taiko; Elkland Art Center; duo Kotonoha; Ancient Moon; and Bhangra, Hindi and Persian Dancers.
And it's not just watching performances; attendees are often encouraged to participate.
"I love being able to integrate dance as a focal point within the Diversity Celebration," said Sarah Bergstedt, event organizer and ASU's director for international outreach. "I guess because I'm an avid proponent of integrating the cultural arts as a form of communication and an excellent participatory way to learn about other world cultures."
One form that particular comes to mind is capoeira, a Brazilian form of martial arts.
"Capoeira really incorporates other aspects of Brazilian culture, because it uses instruments typically from the northeast region of Brazil, and songs that accompany the movement are all in Portuguese," Bergstedt said. "It gets folks involved by teaching aspects of the songs, instruments and movements, while helping provide a piece of Brazilian culture."
Bergstedt said she's also looking forward to ASU senior Kerry Dunlap's class on krumping, "which is a real modern form of movement from the African American community."
"We don't span the entire globe, but we've got a good portion of regions," she said.
Those regions are represented in the People of the Planet Soccer Tournament, a prelude to the Diversity Celebration April 2 at Watauga High School.
"It's an international soccer tournament, where people are able to come represent their country or nation, and it's people of all ages - elementary school students, middle school or high school, college or community members, who want to come out and participate," Lockwood said.
Youth teams are arranged in several age groups, including U6 (ages 5 and 6), U8 (ages 7 and 8), U10 (ages 9 and 10), U12 (ages 11 and 12), U14 (ages 13 and 14). For more information, visit http://www.cs.appstate.edu/soccer.
The Diversity Celebration has also incorporated the annual Unity Festival, established by Boone's Baha'i community in 1992 to counter a Ku Klux Klan march in downtown Boone and Blowing Rock. "They decided to do something they thought was positive to show they supported different cultures and individuals, so they started the Unity Festival," Lockwood said.
Now in its 15th year, the Unity Festival encompasses an entire room in the student union, devoted to multicultural crafts, activities, games, food samplings, body art and more.
The Diversity Celebration, Lockwood said, "spans a gamut of entertainment, activities and involvement."
It runs from 3 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6, at the Plemmons Student Union on the ASU campus.
Parking is available at the Rivers Street parking deck upon request for a free parking pass for the celebration. Additional free parking is available after 3 p.m. in the Rivers Street bike lanes and the College Street parking deck (adjacent to the new library), and elsewhere on campus after 5 p.m.
To make access easier, a shuttle bus will run every half-hour between 2:30 and 9 p.m. from the stadium lot to the student union. Limited parking will be available at the stadium lot late afternoon.
For more information, visit http://www.celebration.appstate.edu.
Schedule of Events
(Subject to change)
Plemmons First Floor
3-3:30 - Ancient Moon
4-4:30 - Dollar Brothers Band
5-5:45 - Mariachi Mexico 2000
6-6:30 - Carolina Klezmer Project
6:45-7:15 - Bam Jazz
7:45-8 - Bhangra, Hindi and Persian Dance
8-8:15 - H2O Hip Hop Oasis
3-3:30 - Jack Tales with Orville Hicks
3:45-4:15 - Jack Tales with Orville Hicks
4:30-5 - The Butterpats
5:45-6:15 - Freegrass
6:45-7:30 - Kike, Miguel y Janiah
8-8:45 - Amantha Mill
3-9 - Foods of the World
* Piri Piri Chicken Wings (Portuguese/African)
* Pao de Oueijo - (Brazilian cheese bread)
* Potato and Cheddar Cheese Pierogi (Poland)
* Fresca de Pina y Arroz (Nicaraguan pineapple beverage with rice)
* Mexican Wedding Cookies
3-5 - Let's Hold Hands Project with Susan L. Roth
5:15-5:45 - Vignettes from Sophie Scholl and the German Resistance (German and English)
6-6:30 - Russian Food, Music and Language
6:30-7 - International Poetry (multiple languages)
7-7:45 - Lisa Kwong: The One Woman Poetry Show
7:45-9 - International Poetry (multiple languages)
3:30-4:15 - Elkland Art Center Puppet Theater
4:30-5:15 - Classical Guitar Recital - instructor Gregory Guay
5:45-6:15 - West African Dance and Drumming - Prof. Sherone Price
6:30-7 - duo Kotonoha - Julian Smart and Yukako Narita
7:30-8:15 - Appalachian Ballad Group Singing Workshop - Susan Pepper
Summit Trail Solarium
3-3:45 - Walker Calhoun and the Raven Rock Dancers
4-4:45 - Davidson River Taiko
5-5:45 - Grandfather Mountain highlanders Pipe Band
6:15-7 - Three Graces Entertainment World Dances
7:15-8 - Lost Jewels of the Ghawazee Belly Dance and Middle Eastern Dance
8:15-9 - ASU Gospel Choir
Plemmons Second Floor
Blue Ridge Ballroom
3-9 - Unity Festival - Aboriginal face-painting, Appalachian butter-making, chopsticks, Hindi language and music, Listen to the Wind, mountain toy making, Spanish games, Indian clothing, vision arrows, African masks, Chinese New Year, French language games, knotted bedspreads, Mehendi hand-painting, Pakistani pennies for peace, spinning, Unity Weave, Words of Peace
3:30-3:45 - Scottish Dance - Boone Scottish Country Dancers
3:45-4:30 - Traditional West African Dances and Drumming
4:30-5:15 - Ancient Moon Belly Dance
5:15-6 - Capoeira - Gabrielle Motta-Passajou
6-6:45 - Krumping - Kerry Dunlap
6:45-7:30 - Bhangra, Hindi and Persian Dances - Muslim Student Association
7:45-8:15 - Latin Dances - Diana Aguilar and Diana Cardona-Giraldo
3-6:30 - International Poetry and Song