Monday, April 16, 2012

Wyandotte County Ethnic Festival draws record crowd


They re-wrote the record book at the 7th Annual Wyandotte County Ethnic Festival at the Kansas City Kansas Community College Field House Saturday.

The biggest crowd ever – an estimated 1,000 persons– turned out for the 2012 Human Family Reunion that also drew the largest number of organizations ever and ran 30 minutes longer than scheduled.

“It just gets bigger and better,” said Dr. Curtis V. Smith, event coordinator and KCKCC Professor of Biological Sciences. “We’ve usually had about 43 booths but this year we had 51. We’re just about at capacity for tables.”

This year’s Festival was highlighted by the presentation of three awards.

Historian and former KCK councilman Chester Owens, who teaches the History of Wyandotte County at KCKCC, and Ed Grisnik, who with his Ed Grisnik Croatian orchestra has performed at every Ethnic Festival, were presented with “Legends of Diversity” awards by Dr. Smith and Karen Hernandez, co-founder of the Festival and former KCKCC Board of Trustee member.

The third award was a surprise presentation of a Globe award made to Dr. Curtis Smith by KCKCC Pres. Dr. Doris Givens for Dr. Smith’s involvement not only in the Festival which he has coordinated the last six years but also for his service to the college.

The striking award included words of praise from the KCKCC Faculty Association, Faculty Senate, Intercultural Center, Sustainability Committee and Festival co-founders Karen Hernandez and Melanie Jackson-Scott.

“Overwhelmed,” said Dr. Smith. “To be recognized by so many of my colleagues and presented the award by the President, you can’t be honored any more than that. But in all honesty, I really don’t feel like I do any more than anyone else.”

Starting with Shawn Derritt’s stirring rendition of “America The Beautiful” accompanied by pianist Alice Jenkins, entertainment filled the Field House from 11:30 a.m. until almost 6:30 p.m. and featured song and dance from all over the world – from India, Israel, Croatia and Morocco to Ireland, Peru, Costa Rica and Jamaica. In addition, there were booths from nearly 20 nations and a wide variety of ethnic foods.

“It’s a great way of seeing the world without ever leaving Wyandotte County,” said Dr. Smith. “Not only do you get to see what other countries are like but you get to meet some of the people from those nations. It’s the closest most people will get to some of those countries.”

In addition to the entertainment on the main stage, a Children’s tent offered face painting and arts and crafts along with entertainment by a large group of Renaissance Festival performers and Radio Disney, which presented a theatrical play with prizes emphasizing car safety and specifically wearing safety belts at all times.

While now a 501c3 non-profit organization, the 2md Annual Silent Auction organized by freelance photojournalist Bettse Folsom did generate funds for student scholarships. 


All photos by ALAN HOSKINS 

TOP PHOTO: “Legends of Diversity” awards were presented to historian Chester Owens (second left) and longtime orchestra leader Ed Grisnik at the 7th Annual Wyandotte County Ethnic Festival Saturday. The presentations were made by Festival co-founder Karen Hernandez (left) and Festival coordinator Dr. Curtis V. Smith. 
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The coordinator of the Wyandotte County Ethnic Festival for the last six years and a participant in each of the Festival’s seven years, Dr. Curtis V. Smith was taken by surprise with presentation of a Globe Award by KCKCC President Dr. Doris Givens.

Accompanied by the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Flag Honor Guard, KCKCC Director of Counseling Sean Derritt opened the 7th Wyandotte County Ethnic Festival with a stirring
rendition of ”America The Beautiful.”

Members of the Renaissance Festival were everywhere at the Wyandotte County Ethnic Festival Saturday, entertaining children and adults alike.