An upcoming festival in Chandler showcases the many cultural groups that have contributed to the city's history.
The 27th annual Chandler Multicultural Festival will take place Saturday, Jan. 15. There will be performances, activities and food and merchandise vendors. The event is in person this year after going virtual last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Community Resource Coordinator Rori Minor says the festival is meant to bring together people from various cultural backgrounds to celebrate diversity in Chandler and the East Valley.
“That is what the event is all about is bringing out different cultures and having people feel that ownership and excitement about their culture being showcased at the event,” Minor says.
Chandler showcases different cultures throughout the year with events such as the Asian Moon Festival in October and Contigo Hispanic Heritage Month events in September.
“We are hoping in 2022 that they’ll be even bigger and better with highlighting different aspects of our community and their cultural heritage,” Minor says.
Chandler’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Division works with local organizations to present the multicultural festival. Some of the groups will have booths at the event to share information about what they do.
“They’re really the lifeblood of this event. They are the ones that get us connected to the vendors that we need. They’re the ones that sit on the committees to help plan things out and make sure we are being culturally sensitive,” Minor says.
What to expect at the Chandler Multicultural Festival
The popular Asian Village returns, and Minor says more European cultures will be featured this year.
Festivalgoers can see performances including Bollywood and traditional music from India, Mexican folklorico, Japanese K-pop, Aztec, traditional Korean and classical and modern Cambodian dance styles.
Contestants from the Miss Indian Arizona pageant will perform Native American dances and educate visitors on their culture and regalia.
A new element this year is a spoken-word performance from local poet Afroetic.
Food trucks and vendors will offer Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Italian, Vietnamese, French, Mexican, American and Thai cuisine.
Merchandise vendors will sell items such as Turkish candy, Greek pastries, Chinese herbal teas, cultural T-shirts, soaps and jewelry. Diné artist Darrin Denny will do live demos along with selling his work.
For children, there will be inflatable obstacle courses, face painting, games, coloring pages and STEAM activities.
Winners of the Creative Expressions Competition will be announced at the festival. The competition, which has art and writing categories, allows Chandler students a chance to showcase their talents and have a voice.
This year, the students created art or wrote about “finding commonalities and connections in our diverse community.” Work from the winners and runners-up will be on display at the festival. Minor won the essay competition as a freshman in high school.
Chandler's Celebration of Unity
The festival has a long history in Chandler. The Friends of the Chandler Public Library started the event in 1995. It's part of a series of events in January called the Celebration of Unity, which are held around Martin Luther King Jr. Day and highlight the values and ideals of the civil rights icon.
As part of this year's celebration of King’s legacy, Arizona-based artist Tiesha Harrison will lead an interactive art game during the festival. Harrison is an abstract expressionist artist who often combines painting with immersive community experiences.
As part of the activity, participants will throw a Velcro ball at a board spelling out the word “community.” Depending upon the letter they hit, they will answer community/unity or MLK questions or take part in activities such as drawing a sketch of MLK or their interpretation of a community.
Participants' responses, written or drawn on fabric or paper, will be added to a mixed-media collage portrait of MLK created by Harrison prior to the event.
The activity is meant to bring people together to learn more about MLK and think deeper about ideals of community, impact, unity and love.
“We are really trying to capture the essence of what Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to accomplish and why we celebrate that holiday weekend with that art exhibit,” Minor says.
'It helped us to feel connected'
Minor, a Chandler native, grew up attending the festival. She says seeing the many cultures at the festival allowed her to better relate to others from different backgrounds.
“I might not have known everything about someone’s culture, but I at least was able to witness a little piece of it. It helped us to feel connected and build community in our own way,” Minor says. “I think that it’s been and continues to be one of those staples for the community to understand each other better and build that connection with each other.”
She has watched the festival expand to showcase a wider variety of cultures.
“I think it gets better each year. The community has more cultures to include, and it gets bigger because more people attend and are impressed with it. They want to bring their families or participate as a business owner,” Minor says.
Chandler Multicultural Festival
When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15.
Where: Dr. A.J. Chandler Park, 3 S. Arizona Ave., Chandler.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Chandler's Multicultural Festival 2022 and Celebration of Unity