November 29, 2020

Around the world with the Festival of Nations

Hiroshi Tada spins tops near the children’s activity area at the Festival of Nations. He handed the spinning top off to children and their parents. PHOTO BY MEGAN FAVIGNANO

At the International Institutue’s Festival of Nations on Sunday, Aug. 26, James Slack wore a green and blue kilt with a shirt that said, “Haggis … The Spice of Life.” Slack volunteered at the Festival of Nations with the Scottish St. Andrew Society of Greater St. Louis. “Ever since I was a kid, I said, ‘I wished I was Scottish,’” Slack said. Twenty years ago, when he was about 30 years old, Slack’s aunt discovered his family’s Scottish heritage. His great-great-grandfather was born in Scotland in 1826 and ended up in Illinois in the 1840s or ‘50s. Slack and his aunt have been researching his family’s genealogy for the past decade. Slack hopes to make it to Scotland one day. Scotland was one of many nations whose food was represented at the festival. “If you don’t like anything being served here, you just don’t like food,” Slack said. The 13th annual Festival of Nations was held in Tower Grove Park Aug. 25-26. Ogunniyi Joseph, a Webster University graduate student, enjoyed experiencing the people and different types of food. “It gives you an insight into a culture,” Joseph said. “It’s really cool.” Joseph attended the festival with fellow Webster graduate student Segun Raji, Webster alumnus Andrew Ajayi and Kirstin A. K. Kahaloa, former associate director of international recruitment at Webster. Last year’s festival had 81 ethnicities represented at booths and in performances. Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Gumang Monastery sold merchandise at a table during the festival. Many of the items they sold contained messages from the Dalai Lama. COBU, a female Japanese Taiko drumming and tap dance group, performed at the festival. Webster University sponsored COBU, who traveled from New York for the festival. Raji attended both days of the festival. COBU’s performance impressed him. He said one of the band’s performances lasted 45 minutes. “The energy and the spirit, I don’t think I’ve witnessed anything like it,” Raji said. The group offered a workshop to give others hands-on experience with the drums. Hiroshi Tada, a top spinning artist, performed near a children’s craft section. For one activity, children drew pictures on a square sheet of paper that depicted what they wished for the world. The pieces of paper were hung on a long sheet of blue paper, which was hung between two trees using string. Maria Blanner, 6, drew a butterfly on her paper. She said her wish for the world was for it to be nicer.

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