Thousands of people recently gathered to celebrate the 2023 Festival of Cultures—some local community members and others from abroad. Although this was the 26th annual event, it was the first year following the integration of the Multi-Cultural Center into LSS. The partnership between LSS and the Levitt honored the tradition of the festival while elevating the experience for the attendees, volunteers, sponsors, vendors and performers.
“Seeing the joy on attendees’ faces as they tried food or activities they’d never experienced before was the best reward for me because that is what the MCC stands for—bridging connections and fostering understanding”, said Valeria Wicker, LSS Multi-Cultural Center Supervisor.
The event, which featured nearly 50 vendor booths and food trucks, is more than experiencing different cultures for a day. “For members of our community who come from abroad, this event is about validation. They have a chance to share their culture through the arts and cuisine, their narratives and languages,” continues Wicker. “People see the flag of their country on display, and they see and they feel seen.”
While some Festival attendees pulled up a Levitt chair close to the stage to enjoy the day’s lineup of captivating performances, others participated in traditional Lakota necklace making with Starr Chief Eagle, had their book signed by author, refugee and event emcee Achut Deng, admired the display of 188 flags representing countries around the globe, or learned to hoop dance with Dallas and Starr Chief Eagle.
“There is a twofold benefit here of acceptance in our communities, and strengthening kinship for global families”, said Wicker. “Similarly, for South Dakotans who are Native, the children can take part in their culture and customs, and share that with their peers through the play ‘Wicoun’ and the session with the Chief Eagle family. It is community inclusive, positive and beautiful—and that is meaningful.”
Nefu Mageo, a Festival of Cultures food truck favorite, Hilltop Resort featuring Polynesian menu items, shared his first impressions. “It was a great experience. It was my first time for an event like the Festival of Cultures. There were different things going on with activities and music, and I saw friends I haven’t seen for a long time. We had fun, the family had a good day, and the whole setup was great.” We may be seeing more of Nefu Mageo’s food truck and enjoying Polynesian cuisine in the Sioux Falls community.