Interactive fun at Northland Ethnic Festival
Twenty-five interactive exhibits, 13 traditional performances, and popular cuisine from around the world filled the Staley High School cafeteria Saturday morning, April 23, for the annual Northland Ethnic Festival.
Various school districts and universities sponsored the 4-hour, fun-for-the-whole-family event. Throughout the school, vendors shared original pieces of art, one-of-a-kind collections, and personal stories about places near and far. Many of the exhibits featured educational material and memorabilia to inform visitors about different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. Visitors made the connection that diversity elevates a community.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said the ethnic festival is an exciting opportunity for people of all ages and ethnicities to interact, listen to music, and have a good time.
“The Northland Ethnic Festival shows all the cultures and different folks that we have living here in the Northland. So many people try to kind of characterize the Northland a certain way–sometimes it’s people who don’t live up North and sometimes it’s people who do. Whereas I think today, you are seeing so many different types of people, different foods, and really so much happiness and joy. That’s why I was so excited to come up,” said Lucas.
Of course, the other big annual festival; the Ethnic Enrichment Festival, is more widely attended.
“Although I love our summer Ethnic Enrichment Festival in Swope Park, where it is always 100 degrees outside, it’s nice to be in a comfortable environment and explore,” said Lucas. “Staley High School and North Kansas City schools are wonderful hosts, and you know the thing that’s cool to me, is when do you get to see a bunch of teenagers smiling on Saturday morning while they’re at school.”
Across the cafeteria, the Ukrainian Club of Kansas City shared a vital and crucial message about the Russia-Ukraine war.
“It’s awful conditions over there and they need help badly,” said Irene Thompson, donning a traditional Ukrainian headpiece, known as a vinok. While no one in her immediate family is currently living in Ukraine, she confirms that members of the Ukrainian Club of Kansas City have parents still living in the war-torn country.
Thompson’s concern over the possibility of a prolonged war is evident and she encourages people to continue their support for Ukraine. “Ukraine is a beautiful country, and we need to keep it democratic.” She said this focus will safeguard future generations.
Thompson told visitors that Ukrainians are known for their vinoks and brightly colored pysanka eggs.
“It takes about six to eight hours to create a single pysanka,” said Thompson. It’s a meticulous process that transforms an egg into a piece of art using beeswax, a wooden stylus, and vibrant hues of dye. The intricacy of the design is what really transforms the egg into a hand-drawn creation. The symmetry of the design is important for balance and harmony.
Perhaps the Northland Ethnic Festival’s biggest draw were the sweetened beverages and desserts. In the cafeteria, traditional Malaysian and Bolivian cuisine was popular among visitors of all ages. Signs along the bow glass read mee Goreng, pork dumplings, and teriyaki bowls. A traditional Malaysian rose-infused beverage appeared to catch everyone’s eye.
Silvia’s Decorated Cookies showcased all things synonymous with Bolivia such as llamas and frilly dresses. The baked goods keep many visitors coming back year and year. Edible portraits of Patrick Mahomes, Spiderman, and Aladdin added to the magic of the baked sweets.
On stage, the Onxy Step Team at Staley High School used their own body to create unique sounds and expressions.
The ladies on the dance team said this style of dance began in the early 1900s, especially as African Americans began attending universities in large numbers. “Once on campus, they decided to create their own reverberations to support students. Step became a way that members of student groups, known today as the “Devine Nine,” express love and pride for their organizations,” said one performer.
“The pop culture impact has multiplied over the past 30 years,” she added.