Concord’s 14th annual Multicultural Festival: ‘Embracing everyone like we are a family’

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  • Jane Yen of Concord warms up backstage before she and her group dance at the Multicultural Festival at Keach Park in Concord on Sunday afternoon, September 19, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jane Yen of Concord warms up backstage before she and her group dance at the Multicultural Festival at Keach Park in Concord on Sunday afternoon, September 19, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jane Yen of Concord warms up backstage before she and her group dance at the Multicultural Festival at Keach Park in Concord on Sunday afternoon, September 19, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Artist Marina Forbes of Rochester picks up a Matryoshka at the Multicultiural Festival at Keach Park on Sunday afternoon, September 19, 2021. Forbes, who grew up in St. Petersburg Russia sold paintings, icons and the small figures. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Artist Marina Forbes of Rochester greets customers in her green bubblewrap Russian babushka scarf at the Multicultural Festival at Keach Park on Sunday afternoon, September 17, 2021. Forbes, who grew up in St. Petersburg forgot her babushka and improvised when she arrived. She sold paintings, icons and Matryoshka at the festival. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jane Yen of Concord warms up backstage before she and her group dance at the Multicultural Festival at Keach Park in Concord on Sunday afternoon, September 19, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • David Djamen (left) and Joachim Bosa play soccer on a sandlot at Keach Park at the Multicultural Festival on Sunday afternoon, September 17, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Hari Adhikari sings as David Nugent plays during their Himalayan Heritage performance at the Multicultural Festival at Keach Park on Sunday afternoon, September 19, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Hari Adhikari sings during the Himalayan Heritage performance at the Multicultural Festival at Keach Park on Sunday afternoon, September 19, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Laura Levesque and her daughter, Lily clap for ‘The In the Field Irish Dancers’ that included her other daughter at the Multicultural Festival on Sunday afternoon, September 19, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 9/19/2021 6:58:37 PM

Dance instructor Sindy Chown jumped onto the stage wearing yellow high-top sneakers and colorful scrunchies on her wrists and braids, accompanied by seven young girls in matching t-shirts from the Baranquilla Flavor kids’ dance group.

The audience at Concord’s Multicultural Festival clapped and cheered as the group hopped and bopped to “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake, upbeat songs Chown selected to send a message of support and encouragement to everyone who has struggled during COVID-19.

Chown, who runs the Baranquilla Flavor multicultural dance program, skipped through the audience, encouraging onlookers to clap and dance along with the kids.

“I love to teach kids, for me it is the number one goal and to be able to embrace the culture,” Chown said. “If we start that with our kids, they will provide the same history and teaching to other kids. Doesn’t matter who they chose to be, dance is like a freedom for them. Dance can be the safety blanket to teach other ones that it’s okay to be whatever they want to be in life.”

Hundreds of people attended the 14th annual Concord Multicultural Festival Sunday under clear blue skies at its new location at Keach Park. The annual festival was canceled last year due to COVID-19, but returned with the theme “This is US.”

Chown came to Concord from Colombia in 2004, and calls the city her second home. She has been volunteering and performing at the festival for the past four years and helped to organize the event as a co-chair for the first time this year. Her dance company also performed cumbia, mapalé and salsa dances later in the day.

“I feel like embracing culture is one of the most important things that we try as a community to do,” Chown said. “Reminding that we all are the ‘one,’ it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s what you can bring to the community as a society.”

The festival started with a parade of over 60 flags representing the home or ancestral countries of people in the Concord area. Food vendors were set up at booths throughout the park, selling dishes from countries around the world, including Nepali biryani, Italian cannoli and Mexican tamales. Artisans were set up at long tables under tents selling jewelry, clothing, art and baskets. On a stage in front of the Concord Community Center building, festival goers watched performances from Burundi drummers, Irish dancers and classical Kirtan and Nepali folk musicians.

“We’re just really happy to be back,” said Jessica Livingston, director of the Multicultural Festival. “And to be up here, where we are in the most diverse population in the state up here on Loudon Road.”

According to Livingston, festival organizers made the decision to move the festival from downtown to Keach Park to be more accessible to the many new Americans who live nearby and use the park for sports, socializing and programs like Project S.T.O.R.Y. that provide youth support services. Chown teaches many of her dance classes in the park as well.

The Festival was started in the mid-2000s, when Concord was seeing an influx of refugees, as a way to introduce the cultures of the newcomers and welcome them to the city. Over the years, the Festival has steadily grown in popularity and in size. Welcoming Week, which is held the week before the festival, is a local version of a nationwide event that promotes inclusivity.

Livingston said she wasn’t sure fundraising efforts would be as successful this year after COVID-19 impacted many local businesses, but the festival ended up raising more money than ever before, mostly through small donations from community members. Eight of the festival’s sponsors this year are from businesses owned by new Americans.

Local business owner Dilu Chhetri Rai, who came to the U.S. from Bhutan in 2009, started her own home care business, New Hampshire Home Care Providers, based on her experience as a cancer survivor going through recovery while trying to care for a young child while her husband was working full time. Chhetri Rai said that to her, the festival represents unity in diversity.

“From my perspective it’s like embracing everyone like we are a family,” Chhetri Rai said. “Irrespective of where you come from or what language we speak, I think deep down we have the same heart that pumps in everybody’s body and it’s important to have that love, affection and compassion and letting the world know that we all stand together.”


Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.



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