International cultures welcomed in Kent

Max Secre

Photos taken by Valerie Brown

Different ethnic cultures were introduced to Kent residents and students Saturday during Kent’s first International Festival.

“We want to outreach to international communities by trying to bridge the gap between international students and American culture,” said Genia Kollie, co-owner of International HOME Markets. “The turnout is very well, especially for our first festival.”

Main Street Kent, a non-profit organization focused on the revitalization of downtown Kent, and International HOME Markets grocery store put on the event.

“We want to have it every year and for it to be bigger and better,” Kollie said. “We want it to be a tradition in the Kent community.”

Participants tried different ethnic foods and drinks sold from various vendors. The Bombay Grill served authentic Indian cuisine and Maui Wowi, a Hawaiian coffees and smoothies chain, sold all natural smoothies in a variety of different flavors.

Casey Sandala, senior visual communications major, tried an Indian dish.

“It was some type of spicy bean over a bed of rice. I also tried some mango juice from the same stand and it was delicious,” Sandala said. “Both items I had never had before, and I was glad to get to taste something new.”

In addition to ethnic cuisines, different ethnic items, such as hand woven bags and stretch bracelets, were sold from stands.

Carnival-style games were also set up at the festival.

Several booths were speaking out about worldwide issues. One individual stand was spreading awareness about the world water crisis. The “I Give Hope” booth sold T-shirts and informed people on the issue.

“People have been very much interested,” said John May, a Kent State graduate who worked the “I Give Hope” booth.

Taylor McCormick, senior economics major, said the festival didn’t seem to be put on for students.

“The atmosphere was cool; it was very relaxed,” McCormick said. “I felt it was more of a family atmosphere than one aimed at college students. The live ethnic music was definitely a cool thing that they put on.”

Sandala said there was a uniqueness to the atmosphere.

“The vendors and performers were very eager to share their culture, while the participants were excited to get to take part in something different, maybe something outside of their comfort zone,” Sandala said.

International HOME Markets’ goal for the festival was to help people share cultures with different events, Kollie said.

McCormick said he thought more ethnic cultures could have been introduced.

“I liked that there was authentic food vendors that sold their food at reasonable prices,” McCormick said. “I think the festival could have benefited from more vendors from other countries.”

Sandala said she hopes the festival becomes bigger.

“I hope that in years to come the festival expands and offers a greater variety of options,” Sandala said. “It was an enjoyable experience and I hope it continues to grow and become more popular.”

Contact Max Secre at [email protected].