Thursday, June 23, 2005

Building a Global Village

Forrest Adams

Friendship Festival welcomes everyone
By Forrest Adams, Fergus Falls Daily Journal

The 8th annual International Friendship Festival in Pelican Rapids is billed as many cultures in one community building a global village, and event organizer Johanna Christianson said that rain or shine, the event is something you will want to experience.

"We like to say that we are a small town but a global village," she said. "I hope that we in Pelican Rapids can show people that it is possible to live together with others in unity and peace. Sometimes diversity is seen as a challenge. We like to see it as an opportunity. When you find ways to live together with people who are different from you, you find that in the most important things, we are much the same."

One such similarity is an enjoyment of good food, and participants in this year's festival will have the opportunity to taste different ethnic foods made by members of ethnic populations which call Pelican Rapids home. Among these are Somali, Vietnamese, Mexican, Bosnians, German, American and Scandinavian foods.

The 2005 festival also has a distinctive Native American theme. It will include a lecture on Native Americans in Otter Tail County with a slide show and artifacts presented by Otter Tail County Historical Society staff, a teepee raising by local Native Americans and possibly traditional Native-American dancers, said Christianson.

She said she is not exactly sure about the status of the Native American dancers but is not worried because after eight years of experience organizing this event, she said she has learned to just go with the flow.

"When you are organizing with other cultures, you find that things almost never go exactly as you have planned," she said. "The important thing is that you need to share a vision and be flexible and relaxed."

Different perceptions of structure, order and planning are common to inter-cultural dealings, she said. Christianson estimated that a large, informal network of people is working together to help her make the international friendship festival happen. That's how things always happen.

Raised in Amsterdam, what Christianson called, "a world city," she said she hopes to create more of a world city atmosphere in Pelican Rapids during the festival, with performing artists and artwork on the sidewalks.

"We will have a chalk art contest for people to design art or a logo on the sidewalk," she said. "We will create an art gallery right there."

She said some chalk would be provided but suggested that artists bring some of their own chalk if they tend to be passionate about their chalk art. Prizes from Wells Fargo bank will be awarded to the winner.

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