TROY — A threat of inclement weather brought the 2019 Festival of Nations to a close three hours early on Saturday. The event took place on the levee in Troy.
According to Chairperson Michael Ham, the fest, which began a noon and was set to last until 6 p.m., was effectively shut down around 3:15 Saturday afternoon.
“When you have an event like that, you watch the radar very closely,” Ham said. “We began to see a wall of rain coming toward the area from Indiana, so we decided to close up at that time when we could do so safely.”
It was at this time that booth delegates were given a suggestion to pack up. Ham noted that the suggestion was simply that, and all participants were given the option to stay if they chose to do so. Although the bad weather ended up “blowing over,” the threat was something Ham did not want to chance.
“We just couldn’t take the risk of safety, especially with the lightning that was projected to come,” he said.
In spite of the early ending, Ham said the festival had a great turn out, with an estimated 1,000 people visiting within the first two hours.
“People come to the Festival of Nations for two reasons: the food and the entertainment,” Ham said. “And both, for the time that they had, were resounding successes.”
The fest began with recognition of Troy Mayor Michael Beamish, highlighting the fact that this was his final Festival of Nations in his elected position. Beamish was honored with a plaque and an oak tree.
Countries represented at the festival included France, Germany, Honduras, India, Italy, Japan, Panama, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Scotland, South Africa, Ukraine, and U.S.A.
French booth delegate Amorette Dye has participated in Troy’s Festival of Nations since 2013. Dye, who lives in Troy, said her maternal family originated from the Alsace region of France.
“A lot of people from around here share our Alsatian heritage and love to talk about it with us at the booth, finding it on a map and pointing it out to their kids,” she said. “I got involved with the festival for the same reason — making sure our French roots were relevant to my young daughter.”
This year, Dye said, the French booth display had three parts: French beaches, “with Saint-Tropez resident Brigitte Bardot singing on the radio and the strange story of the Garfield phones that washed up in the Northwest;” the Eiffel Tower’s 130th birthday; and weird trivia, “like the decree forbidding UFOs from landing in a certain vineyard.”
Along with the displays, imported French lollipops were also handed out for visitors to try, and visitors were given the opportunity to make their own sachets of French lavender.
“We truly enjoy doing this and we look forward to it every year,” Dye said. “It’s always great to see people walk up and down the levee, talking and sampling.”
Dye added that the coexistence of cultures is part of what makes the festival so appealing.
“Kids go past with a German pretzel in one hand and a Japanese toy in the other; families pose for pictures in sari or kimono, stop to talk to us about their vacation in Paris, then go on to sample some Scottish soft drinks and listen to Peruvian folk music,” she said. “It’s a great way for the delegates, all area residents, to bring the culture we love and are so proud of to a place where our similarities and differences can be celebrated all at once.”
While most booth organizers chose to close up shop at the suggestion of event coordinators, there were a few that chose to carry on.
Booth organizers Aki Tsuji, Mayumi Nagata, and Haruna Ishikawa, who represented Japan, said they chose to stay because of the enthusiastic attendees.
“We enjoyed cooking and talking with the people,” said Tsuji. “Even with the weather, so many people came to say hello and buy Japanese food.”
Tsuji, Nagata, and Ishikawa, all orginally of Japan, now reside in Troy and have for four, nine, and four years, respectively. They, along with several other volunteers, organized the Japanese booth selling yakisoba noodles and kushikatsu, a Japanese-style deep-fried pork skewer with a sweet and salty sauce.
“Japanese festivals mean yakisoba,” Tsuji said. “It’s a very typical noodle in Japan for festivals.”
Ishikawa said that while other booths had closed, they continued to cook and sell food until they ran out.
“People kept ordering, so we decided to stay,” she said.
Ishikawa said the people are also the reason they return year after year to the festival.
“We see so many smiling faces, so that’s why we keep doing it,” she said. “Plus, the Japanese children love it and look forward to it each year.”
Nagata added that it provides a way for the local community to learn more about their home country.
“It’s a very good opportunity to introduce the Japanese culture to others,” she said. “And because Troy is accepting of us to stay here, we want to say, ‘Thank you.’”
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