On a green paper leaf, Brenda Joyner of Bloomington wrote the word “patience.”
She glued the leaf to a cardboard tree representing strengths in the community at the Cultural Festival Saturday at Illinois State University.
“I strive to be patient and I’m trying to grow in that direction,” she said.
Joyner has attended the annual festival, in its 37th year, for “many, many years.”
“If you’re interested in connecting with other cultures, you can start somewhere like this,” she said. “Then spread out to make diversity a big part of your life. Your life is not the only life.”
The purpose of the festival is to connect the wide variety of ethnicities in Bloomington-Normal through music, dance, art and fellowship.
Some of the performances in the Brown Ballroom included the Sugar Creek Cloggers, Odyssey World belly dancing, Japanese sword demonstration, a fashion showcase and solo singers.
“It provides an easy opportunity for the community to experience ballet, clogging, jazz, belly dancing...they can see a huge variety of cultures in one place,” said Tony Jones, program coordinator.
“With everything going on in the world, we need events like these where people can come together, mix and mingle, and enjoy a diverse environment.”
Community groups like Not In Our Town, the local NAACP branch, 100 Black Men of Central Illinois and BN Parents, shared information with visitors. Face painting, crafts and inflatables were available for kids.
While the Odyssey World belly dancers swayed to Middle Eastern music, 4-year-old Wynter Mann hopped off her seat in the audience and started to dance next to her grandma, Virginia Mann.
“It goes to show how people of other cultures can come together,” said Virginia, of Normal.
Amber Schrlau of Stanford came to the festival for the first time with her kids Maeva, 4, and Murphy, 2.
“They need to know love and what better way than this event,” said Schrlau. “Not everyone is the same and that’s a good thing.”
The young dance group, Ballet Folklorico de Central Illinois, took the stage in authentic Mexican dancing costumes. The girls wore full red skirts and the boys wore sombreros. The group is part of Conexiones Latinas de McLean County, a non-profit organization with the goal of intercultural collaboration and connecting Latinos in the community.
“They are so excited about sharing this with the community,” said Javier Centeno, vice president of the organization. “This sort of event is about love; giving love to the community and respecting each other."