Sunday, October 12, 2003

Clermont celebrates world of diversity



By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Panamanian dancers (left to right) Daniela Schulten, 7, Yesenia Lizardi, 7, Alexandra Damas, 8, and Isabella Damas, 12 (background) get ready to perform.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
BATAVIA - Darlene Drees and her 12-year-old daughter, Allison, took a trip around the world Saturday, and they never left Batavia.

The mother and daughter were among hundreds of people who attended Clermont County's first Culturefest.

Held on the University of Cincinnati's campus here, the daylong event featured ethnic offerings including dancers from Cameroon and Greece; food from Hungary, Mexico and India; Native American storytelling; Jewish folk songs; Scottish bagpipe music; a Japanese ladies chorus, and an African-American steel drum band.

Organizers said the festival is indicative of the changing face of Clermont County.

"Clermont is no longer just an Appalachian county," said Berta Velilla, a member of the Culturefest planning committee.

"A lot of people think Clermont County doesn't celebrate diversity. But we do," said Darlene Drees, clutching the handmade purse she bought from an Indian crafts booth, while showing off the Indian tattoo inked onto her hand.

"I love anything to do with anything cultural and multicultural. I love the variety," she added. "I brought my daughter because I want her to learn that everybody is special - everybody counts - no matter who they are or where they come from."

Rob and Debbie Fields, of Milford, with their 18-month-old twins, watched as dancers from Cameroon, in central Africa, swayed to rhythmic drums.

"I personally think something like this is necessary for everyone," said Rob Fields.

His wife smiled.

"This is good for my kids," Debbie Fields said. "I want them to be exposed to different cultures and other ways of living."

Alberta Manga, of West Chester, president of the Cameroon Family of Cincinnati, a community of Cameroon nationals, said such events are important for everyone.

"We wanted to be here," she said of her group. "These festivals are important and people learn so much about each other. You can go all over the world and never leave the room."

E-mail mmccain@enquirer.com




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