When the first days of June roll around there are a few certain things that you can count on. Schools will be out for summer vacation, swimming pools will be open and the Mid Ohio Valley will be overflowing with music, art, food and culture. The Mid Ohio Valley Multi-Cultural Festival, held at Parkersburg City Park, just wrapped up its highly successful twenty second official year.
The Multi-Cultural Festival was founded by Eugene Donaway and Bea Corra to bring diversity, awareness and inclusivity to our community, at no cost. The festival has grown into a place where people can come and learn about cultures that are different from their own, experience food that they may not otherwise try, listen to music, watch dance performances, and even purchase pieces of art, jewelry or a multitude of other items from around the globe.
“The Multi-Cultural Festival is fabulous,” said Cammy Murray, with Parkersburg PRIDE. “It’s a different kind of vibe here. I love it.”
For some families, including mine, the Mid Ohio Valley Multi-Cultural Festival is so much more. It offers families whose members came from other places a chance to remember things from a long ago time or place, and the opportunity to share that with family and friends. There are food vendors – oh so many food vendors! Each year there is a wondrous mix of classic and modern takes on food. You can find local restaurants like Philippines Best, Star of India and Rubi’s Pizza as well as recent food truck additions like Pappy’s Lip Smackin’ BBQ and Le Creperie, which serves both sweet and savory crepes. You can also find classic festival representations such as corn dogs and deep fried oreos, as well as hand cut french fries from the Wienerville food truck. No matter what amazing food you choose, top it off with a home made lemon shake which never fails to make a June afternoon that much better.
“It is a very unique event that brings a lot of different cultures together through the same space,” said Jessica Duckworth, Co-President for the Festival. “It’s different from other festivals in the way that we have a little bit of everything from a variety of genres.”
For Jessica, it was this diversity that first drew her to the Festival. “I grew up in the Mid-Ohio Valley and was drawn to the fact that I could experience different cultures here, an experience I could not easily find elsewhere.” She began to participate first as an attendee, then as a vendor, and before she knew it, she was lending a hand in coordination. “When they decided that they needed help, I realized it took a village to create it – so I became a volunteer!”
Another huge draw of the festival is the shopping. There are so many artisan stands with handmade goods, glassware and pottery. One such piece, a mug purchased from Serenity Coffee House’s Global Market and hand painted from Mexico, made a wonderful Father’s Day gift for Chef Yavel. Near the entrance you can find an assortment of hand sewn marionettes and just a few feet from there is a bonsai tree booth. There is no shortage of jewelry to choose from, including Native American, Celtic, leatherwork and various crystals and healing pieces.
More than anything, The festival is known for the amazing entertainment presented year after year. This year’s lineup included funk bands to Highland dancers, a competition troupe based out of right here in West Virginia. The main stage entertainment also included Tae Kwon Do demonstration, acrobatics, Polynesian dance, hand drumming and as with tradition a Latin music performance Saturday night. This year’s band Appalatin comes from Louisville, Ky with cultural roots all over Latin America. Local music was also on feature for this year’s festival, including performances by bands Back Porch Alibi, the Brady Young Jazz Quartet and the the Corey Shields Trio.
Whether you come for the food, the shopping, the community, the entertainment, or just because it is free, there is always something to see, to listen to and most importantly, to learn about the wonderful diversity that makes up our little piece of this great big beautiful world.
The incredible people behind the scenes of this festival are always looking for participation in the way of vendors, or entertainment, as well as to help things run smoothly behind the scenes. To get involved, contact a board member, information available on their website.