Springfield showcases city’s diversity at CultureFest

Aubrey Cunningham was determined to see what was behind the door of the big red fire truck displayed outside Springfield City Hall Plaza on Saturday morning.

She didn’t find out what was in there before the energy and curiosity a 2-year-old child possesses led her roaming to another area that sparked her momentary interest, even if it was a small puddle of water to splash in, left over from the previous night’s rain.

It’s that spirit of discovery and curiosity that sums up CultureFest, which was set up in the plaza for the 23rd year, where the community gathered to celebrate its diversity through entertainment, information and food with the theme of “Discovering Our Roots and Discovering Springfield Together.”

It is presented by the City of Springfield and several sponsors.

PHOTOS: CultureFest 2019

Warm early fall conditions saw hundreds of attendees take in the attractions, dine and watch sign language choirs, marching bands, senior singers and other offerings showcasing what makes Springfield diverse.

It was one of several things that attracted Kara Cunningham, Aubrey’s mom, to bring her and infant brother Tristan downtown. She grew up here then moved to Columbus and moved back here to raise her family.

While Cunningham said Columbus offers many festivals and activities, you’d usually have to pay admission for something similar to CultureFest.

“It’s an amazing city with activities like this,” she said.

CultureFest co-chairman Dr. Surender Neravetla was pleased with that story and the huge crowd that gathered on the plaza.

“The cultural diversity of Springfield is on display today. A lot of hardworking people helped put it together,” he said.

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It’s a chance to show what makes various cultures’ customs unique, many set up in booths and offer free items. The Muslim community gives free scarfs, with some people coming back year after year to add to their collection according to Samina Ahmed.

Sikh community member Ravjot Kaur proudly displayed a familiar logo on the back of her salwar kameez, the traditional outfit worn by women – that of Ohio State University.

Although a student at Wittenberg, she dances for OSU’s Bhangra dance team that has earned awards, and performed on the stage Saturday. Kaur is proud have represented her community at CultureFest for 15 years, especially when some visitors confuse the Sikh culture with others.

“Everybody seems willing to learn if you give them the information to try to learn,” she said.

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Even the foods were diverse, with Indian, Mexican, Hungarian cabbage rolls alongside all-American foods. If you consider French fries to be representative of France or the U.S. there were several choices there alongside ice cream, hot dogs and others.

It’s this type of co-existence that makes Cunningham prepared to bring her children back to City Hall Plaza for Septembers to come and why she wants to raise them here.

“Springfield is invested in accepting these cultures’ virtue rather than someone’s pocketbooks. I respect that and what I want to teach my kids,” she said.

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