AV Heritage Day celebrates diversity
By ALLISON GATLIN
Valley Press Staff Writer
LANCASTER - Drawn together to enjoy food, entertainment, information and just a general sense of camaraderie, throngs of Valley residents took part in the Antelope Valley International Heritage Day on Saturday at Lancaster City Park.
"Everybody here is basically family," said organizer Farivar Roshanian of The Bahai Faith.
He compared the event to a family reunion, where people meet up with those family members they haven't seen in a long time and share stories of their lives. In this case, those stories are told through music, dance and food.
The eighth annual festival was presented free to the public by the Antelope Valley International Heritage Committee and co-sponsored by the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale. The location of the event alternates yearly between the cities.
"I think this is the greatest number (of visitors) we've ever had," said Lancaster Mayor Frank Roberts.
"The best part about it is, it's a chance to get the cultures together, and no one's even thinking about it, they just come," he said.
"This is a great coming together of the community," said Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford. "We've got a lot more diversity (in the Antelope Valley) than people think."
Booths presented by numerous area cultural organizations filled the festival area, providing a sample of the many different cultures represented in the local population.
Groups participating included Filipino American Association, Antelope Valley Intertribal Council, A.V. Chinese Association, and American Islamic Institute.
Once again, the free food proved to be the most popular attraction, with long lines of hungry visitors snaking their way around the Stanley Kleiner Building to sample the international smorgasbord.
The menu ranged from Indian naan and vegetable dishes to Filipino egg rolls to the traditional American sweet potato pie and hot dogs.
"It isn't very often you get a chance to try all the (foods of) the different nationalities," said Darlene Sprunger of Palmdale. "They're unusual dishes."
Fair-goers were entertained by performances ranging from various ethnic dances to a martial arts demonstration.
Children were especially interested in the creative opportunities provided at some of the booths.
The A.V. Women's Cultural Association offered children the chance to create their own versions of a rangoli, an Indian design made of colored grains of rice, used to signify good luck. The designs are traditionally created in the front yards of homes for the Festival of Lights, said Heeha Shah.
On Saturday, children drew their own designs on a card, then used glue to fill in the design with colored rice.
While traditional rangoli often use symbols such as a lamp, these artists' creations featured everything from butterflies to Spongebob Squarepants.
At the other side of the festival grounds, the Bahai Faith provided examples of the word "peace" in 10 different languages - including Farsi, Hebrew, Arabic and Russian - for children to color. The finished pieces were displayed on a board at the booth, before the artists took them home.
"It's been busy, busy, busy," said Nancy Graham. "They're enjoying it."
©Copyright 2002, Valley Press (Palmdale, California)