story: Jim Dyar photos: Rita Dressel
THE 8th ANNUAL MULTI-CULTURAL CELEBRATION
If you picture a beautiful quilt in your mind, it’s likely you’re thinking of something with an assortment of interesting colors and patterns. Quilts are like communities in that way, and the people who organize the North State’s annual Multi-Cultural Celebration believe diversity is something to honor.
The eighth annual event takes place Feb. 5 at Central Valley High School and features a feast of international foods, cultural and community informational booths and performances of all variety. “I use the metaphor of a tapestry, where everybody brings something unique to it,” says organizer Don Yost. “All of those elements go together to make a beautiful society.”
The event started in 2003 when members of the Mien community in Shasta Lake City wanted to thank the town for being so welcoming to people of Mien heritage. The celebration has expanded to include an assortment of ethnicities and cultures in the area, and the event now attracts up to 600 attendees.
The event’s planning committee defines the celebration’s purpose as “promoting cultural recognition and respect, and celebrating the diversity of the community.” In addition to a lunch of international foods, the free event includes displays by local service agencies, art and projects by Gateway Unified School District students and cultural sharing in the form of music, fashion and dance by people of all ages and backgrounds.
This year, Redding School of Arts students in the Mandarin Immersion Program will lead a grand entrance in a Chinese Dragon and also sing songs in Mandarin.
Though a recent U.S. Census Bureau survey revealed that Shasta County is predominantly populated by people who identify themselves as Caucasian (88.2 percent) – the seventh highest percentage in California – there’s more diversity that most area residents realize, says event organizer Lee Macey. “There is so much diversity in this county, even if it’s not readily apparent,” she says. “At this event, it’s like you get let in on all these incredible secrets that were being kept in. Often times, people are hesitant to share their culture to the greater community because they’re not sure how it will be accepted. This is an event where people feel comfortable and they know it will be accepted and appreciated.”
Past menus have consisted of Middle Eastern tabouli, yellow curry, tamales, barbecued salmon, fried chicken, chicken stir-fried vegetables and rice, Italian cookies, ice cream and much more. One addition this year will be American Indian buffalo stew.
Past performers have included Edelweiss German Singers, American Indian drum groups, Temple Beth Israel dancers, a Simpson University fashion show, Lao dancers, the Martin Luther King Youth Choir, a Shasta County Mien community dance troupe, Philippine American Heritage dancers and many more. An American Indian Round Dance with audience participation typically concludes the event.
The Multi-Cultural Planning Group’s work has been recognized by Congress, the California State Senate, the California Assembly and the Shasta County Board of Supervisors. This year’s theme is “Honoring Humanity.”
“It feels good to have so much connection (with various groups),” organizer Yost says. “People are so proud of their cultural heritage and they want to share it. This is an opportunity for them to do that, and they may not have that opportunity very often.”
Multi-Cultural Celebration 11 am to 3 pm, February 5 Central Valley High School, Talon Hall, 4066 La Mesa Ave., Shasta Lake City