Brazos Valley Worldfest Investing in a Future of Cultural Understanding
nder the golden rays of the November sunrise, volunteers and participants began the early morning set up for the third annual Brazos Valley Worldfest. Hundreds of green volunteer shirts could be seen flocking to Wolf Pen Creek Park, which provided a beautiful backdrop for the brightly colored booths and cultural attire that filled the festival. The work and dedication of the volunteers was necessary for such a large undertaking. Kelley Nease, volunteer coordinator for the festival marveled at the efforts of students, families and citizens eager to volunteer, “Each year the volunteers have been the backbone of the festival. Every smile they give, every craft they make, or every banner they hang--they are there because they want to serve this community and show people that the Brazos Valley is welcoming and excited about the unique variety of backgrounds, traditions and cultures of the families that live here.” By mid morning, the sidewalks were lined with booths and vendors and filled with attendees of all ages enjoying the atmosphere. Worldfest commemorated international appreciation with cultural displays, demonstrations, international cuisine, performances, children’s crafts, educational competitions, camels and many other activities. The event presented more than 45 cultural displays this year in addition to the other festivities. The Confucius Institute/Chinese Students and Scholars Association won this year’s cultural display award with their brightly colored booth, followed by the Bolivian and Malaysian Student Associations. Stopping by the Ecuadorian cultural booth, attendees learned about the geography and animal life of the four main regions of Ecuador while getting a taste of its traditional clothing associated with the culture. Petroleum engineering graduate student Ruth Fernandez represented her native country as she excitedly welcomed attendees into her booth. “I am out here today to show what Ecuador is all about,” Fernandez said. “I so greatly enjoy Texas culture, and this is an opportunity for Texas to enjoy the culture of Ecuador.” Fernandez has participated in every Worldfest since its foundation and said she is amazed at the amount of growth the event has experienced. Since the festival’s inception in 2007, it has seen many changes, including the location, the participants and vendors, but its goals remain the same. Festival Coordinator Kim Fox said she believes breaking down cultural barriers and ridding the world of preconceived cultural notions is the main purpose of Worldfest. “International awareness is at the heart of Brazos Valley Worldfest,” Fox said. “As students understand world cultures, they break down cultural assumptions and develop understanding. Teachers, parents and students are together investing in a future of cross-cultural acceptance.” Brazos Valley Worldfest strongly embraces this mantra as it seeks to educate the entire community through activities, performances and more importantly interaction with international participants. The event served as a great environment for fostering community among Texas A&M international students, said aerospace engineering graduate student Reema Padia.
“There are so many cultures here that I have never seen or learned about before,” Padia said. “This event is just as much of a learning opportunity for us as it is for American visitors.” The performances as well as the cultural booths provided an educational experience, as audiences watched Flamenco, Czech, Mexican dances and many more. New to the stage was the Kaminari Taiko, a group from Houston performing a Japanese dance accompanied by “large drums?” who left the audience breathless with their intense movements and beats. Also a newcomer to the stage was the Discovery School’s international fashion show which featured the traditional dress of women and men from all over the globe. This sparked interest from the audience as the history and purpose of each garment was highlighted. The participants exited the stage to find many words of appreciation and questions about their culture and life adjustments in Bryan-College Station. By the end of the festival, participants and performers alike shared in learning about others’ cultures. Texas A&M University and the city of College Station, organizers of the festival, enjoyed the success of the festival before beginning the plans for next year’s Brazos Valley Worldfest.