TROY — You don’t have to travel to the City of Lights to visit the Moulin Rouge and their famous cancan dancers.
On Saturday, Aug. 20, for the 23nd year, the Festival of Nations will honor more than 15 nations, giving residents of Troy and Miami County the opportunity to experience other cultures through interactive booths and displays, food, dance, music, story-telling and arts and crafts.
Individual delegations prepare authentic, traditional food items representative of their countries. The event is free and is open to the public. The festival site opens at 2 p.m. and will include the Parade of Nations at 4 p.m. on the Great Miami River levee in Troy. The festival closes at 8 p.m.
The featured country this year is France, and Jerry Mullins is the chairman of this year’s event.
According to this year’s festival delegate Amorette Dye, France is sort of a newcomer to the Troy Festival of Nations. Dye shared how it was her then 3-year-old daughter Gabrielle’s wish to march in the Children’s Parade that sparked her involvement in the organization.
“One of my favorite things about the Festival of Nations is what a fantastic educational opportunity it is for everyone, but especially for the children,” Dye shared. “That was my motivation for getting involved in the first place. I wanted my daughter to participate so that she’d have a vested interest in learning about her heritage, taking pride in it. She has turned into a very eager little French ambassador. And I love to see families coming up to the booth and pointing out places on the map. ‘This is where Great-Great-Grandma was born,’ or ‘This is where we went on our honeymoon, maybe we’ll take you there someday.’”
Dye’s mother’s family comes from Alsace, which is a region in the far northeast corner of France, bordering Germany. Gabrielle will be carrying the Alsatian flag in the Parade of Nations this year.
“Our Festival is wonderful because it gives us the opportunity to show how many different nationalities and cultures are part of our community and contribute toward making it such an interesting place. Not only that, the delegates put so much work into making sure there is always something new to see, to try and to learn. The festival is very dynamic and colorful; every year is a new experience,” Dye said.
Dye describes her family’s area of origin as “an absolutely beautiful storybook-village sort of place, with half-timbered houses and cascading flower boxes.”
“We’ve learned, from festival attendees, that many people in this area are also descended from Alsatians,” Dye shared. “I’ve always thought that maybe they chose Ohio because it looks and feels like home … same green fields, rivers, rolling hills. And Alsace has a strong regional identity that’s unique in France.”
French fanfare at the festival
Dye said how entertainment is one of the festival’s strong suits because there is something going on onstage all day long.
This year’s featured entertainment is Madame Gigi’s Outrageous French Cancan Dancers who are returning for their second year. The group will preform at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and will be found around the festival site throughout the afternoon.
“In addition to the Parade of Nations and the Children’s Parade, the variety of entertainment is amazing … singers, dancers in incredible costumes, you name it,” she said. “I’m particularly excited this year because Madame Gigi’s Outrageous French Cancan Dancers is back for a return engagement, and they plan to stick around between performances to meet festival attendees and pose for photos.
“Their routines have the audience absolutely enthralled, and they are very outgoing and interactive with the crowd. Last year, Madame Gigi had attracted a herd of little girls, trailing behind her doing practice kicks and asking when they could join the troupe!”
Tasty treats from around the globe
Dye encourages all attendees to come to the festival with an empty stomach because there are plenty of global goodies to gobble up throughout the day.
The French booth will pass out Pierrot Gourmand lollipops, which Dye has imported from France just for the festival.
Wrapped crepe cookies, direct from the Brittany region of France, will also be available for people to sample, Dye said.
“We have delegates who grill, delegates who make fantastic fruit drinks, delegates who bake incredible pastries,” she said. “It’s a pretty diverse bunch.”
The Festival of Nations will have delegates from the following countries who will share their heritage in a variety of ways: The Philippines, Honduras, Peru, Argentina, Germany, Bosnia, Puerto Rico, Poland, Scotland, Italy, Japan, Ukraine, France, and the Saponi Nation.The Troy Historical Society, CISV and Youth for Understanding will also participate at the festival.
Dye said festival-goers will want to dress cool and comfortable before heading to the festival site on the Great Miami River levee behind the Troy Memorial Stadium.
“Come with an open, receptive mindset and an eagerness to try new things,” she said. “Think of us as friends of yours who are introducing you to something that we love, and that we think you’ll love, too. I think when people come in eager to try new things, that’s when they get the most out of our festival,” she said.
Dye said the Troy Festival of Nations is a unique opportunity to showcase the area’s diversity and heritage.
“I’d love to thank the community for coming out and joining us as we showcase what we feel makes our heritage interesting and special,” she said. “I’d also to thank those individuals and businesses who sponsor the festival, because we would not be able to put on such a great event without them. And thanks also to Festival organizers and my fellow Delegates, for forming such a warm and welcoming group. It’s been a wonderful experience and an honor to be involved,” she said.
The Festival of Nations was originally put together by a group of local residents headed by Ruth Jenkins, wife of then-Mayor Peter Jenkins, under the auspices of the Mayor’s International Council. The purpose is to recognize and celebrate the cultural diversity of Troy and surrounding area and to promote meaningful international relationships. The festival has always been funded by donations, including support from the Troy Foundation, city of Troy and Troy Area Chamber of Commerce.
For more information, visit www.TroyFestivalofNations.com.
Reach Melanie Yingst at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews