My Town’s Traditional Festival

October 29, 2020

On the third weekend in May, the village of Skokie has held a Festival of Cultures featuring various cultures and traditions of its resident. The motto of the village is, “everyone is welcome” and you can see in signs on lawns of the homes representing the town’s diversity. In the 1970s, a large number of residents in the village were Jewish. On July the fourth 1977, anti-Nazi demonstrators were chanting at a park in protest of the possible future march of the Nazis in Skokie. After much litigation, the march did not occur.

A movie titled “Skokie” was made to represent the events of this time and Danny Kaye was in the movie. I was in college at the time all this had occurred. Skokie wanted to change its image, particularly because the village became multicultural. The first event was initiated and planned in the 1990s by a newly formed ethnic diversity committee made up of the human relations community, the village of Skokie, the park district, and the Skokie library. In the first event, there were 14 cultures that were represented with a thousand attendees. This year would have been the 30th anniversary of the festival. It has grown to more than three dozen cultures and 25,000 visitors.

The festival has received both state and national arts programming awards. The festival consists of a variety of activities, including ethnic music and dance, cultural booths, food, international children’s games, arts and crafts, merchandise bazaar, animal or train rides, films, and the iconic flag display. When you arrive, you obtain a passport with each of the cultural booths designated on a page. A passport is taken to each of the booths and a stamp is placed on the spot of the culture’s page. The object is to try and visit all the cultures and to try and get the passport filled. It is a lot of fun.

As I mentioned before, there are many countries represented at the festival. They may include Israel, Russia, China, Sweden, Norway, Armenia, Assyrian, Scottish, Bulgarian, Mexican, Japan, Korea, the U.S., etc. I particularly enjoyed watching of course the ethnic folk dances and the ethnic folk songs. The programs are varied and they are so amazing. There are fan dances, there’s Scottish reels and jigs. And I’m an immigrant of Scotland, so I love watching the Scottish group. And I know I participated in that group many years ago. The largest spectators skit of the weekend is always the Assyrian group. It’s like wall-to-wall people when you come and watch them and they sing and they dance and the people in the crowd dances, and it’s really exciting. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful exhibit. Some years they’ve had where you could dance with them and other times it was watching their performances. Some of the years I didn’t attend because everything is outside and it’s either too cold or too rainy, but they somehow … they still hold it every year. I’m hoping that next year I’ll be able to go and enjoy all the cultural events that occur in Skokie.

I didn’t go in the first few years, but I would say in the ’90s. I always loved Scottish music. But I know some of the dances or I can kind of pick up some of the dances that…from the various performing groups. And I just love to sit in my chair and dance with them.

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