Cross cultural festival celebrates with music and dance

Colin MacLean
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Latin music pumped through the air at Bowring Park Saturday as, at one point, more than a dozen people danced their hearts out in the radiantly sun-lit amphitheatre.

There were older people, grey-haired and smiling as they stepped with sure feet along to the music.

There were young adults, dressed to impress and swaying with the lively tunes.

And there were kids who, what they lacked in rhythm, made up for in enthusiasm and sheer energy.

Esteban Rivera, events co-ordinator for the Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council Inc. (RIAC),  was right in the middle of it. He was operating the sound system so he couldn’t get up and dance, but that didn’t stop him from grooving in his seat.

It’s great to see so many different kinds of people up and enjoying themselves as they laugh, chat and dance, said Rivera, that is, after all, what this day was all about.

Saturday was the council’s second Summer Cultural Festival. It’s an event aimed at highlighting some

of the various cultural communities living in Newfoundland and Lab-rador.

RIAC is a not-for-profit charitable organization that helps to settle new Canadians and refugees and to raise awareness on various related issues.

The festival was originally a fundraiser, but Rivera and the council decided to take it in a new direction this year. Donations were still accepted but participating was free.

“The goal is to show how inclusive Newfoundland is, without using the word ‘inclusive’ which is hard,” he said.

“Because Newfoundlanders are not ‘inclusive,’ they are not ‘tolerant’ — those concepts don’t apply to them because they welcome you. And I want to show that in the festival,” he said.

This year’s festival had a number of performers and vendors, both from the new immigrant and refugee community and from Newfoundland.

Sometimes, much to the council’s happiness, the two worlds collide, as they did on Saturday.

Konkoba is the name of a West African drum group that was one of the acts to take the stage — they are also all Newfoundlanders.

“It’s great to see some locals getting out and trying something new and getting a bit of exposure to a new culture,” said Charmaine Penney, a member of Konkoba.

“I think it was a great opportunity to showcase our band and also just to participate in a festival like this, that sort of highlights cultures from away that are new to the province, as well as Newfoundlanders who have taken an interest in music and dance from various countries,” she said.

For anyone who missed the event this year, don’t fret, the festival is coming back next year, said Rivera.

He’s looking for suggestions on how to make the event even better, he said, and he encourages everyone who’s interested to contact him at

“If somebody sees something about the festival they want to improve, they have to talk to me and I’ll try to fix it as best I can. The more people who participate the easier it is for me and the better it turns out,” he said.

Twitter: @TelegramMacLean



Organizations: Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council, Newfoundland and Lab

Geographic location: Bowring Park, Newfoundland

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