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Published: Sunday, 3/21/2010

Festival unites cultures to invoke spirit of global village in Toledo

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Aige Guo joins in a Tibetan dance during the Toledo Sister Cities International Festival at the Erie Street Market. She was one of many performers to display dances from various cultures. Aige Guo joins in a Tibetan dance during the Toledo Sister Cities International Festival at the Erie Street Market. She was one of many performers to display dances from various cultures.
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For a few hours Saturday, Toledo was not a city but a great, close-knit village - "the village of Toledo," in the words of Tom Singleton.

Mr. Singleton, who plays West African drums, was one of the many performers at the Toledo Sister Cities International Festival in the Civic Center Promenade at the Erie Street Market.

The festival brought so many people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds together that for a brief interval, Mr. Singleton said, it was - in spirit, at least, at the downtown market - like an idyllic African village.

"We want to get people involved. We want everybody in the village of Toledo to participate," Mr. Singleton said. "Instead of the city, we're the village. Everybody here is a member of the village of Toledo."

The festival's theme was "Bringing the World to Toledo."

Rogene Kohler, festival coordinator, described the event as "a celebration of the diversity of Toledo."

Ms. Kohler said Toledo was long overdue to have a single festival to highlight this diversity "performances, food, and fellowship."

Misael Martinez sings 'La Bamba' at the festival, which had the theme 'Bringing the World to Toledo.' Yesterday's five-hour event attracted more than 500 people to the downtown site. Misael Martinez sings 'La Bamba' at the festival, which had the theme 'Bringing the World to Toledo.' Yesterday's five-hour event attracted more than 500 people to the downtown site.
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There were plenty of performers, including Scottish bagpipers, Polish and German dancers, Japanese drummers and dancers, and Swiss and Latin singers.

They didn't necessarily come from the culture they were celebrating, but that didn't dim their enthusiasm.

Heidi Shea was part of a Middle Eastern dance troupe, the Aegela Dance Company.

Dressed in colorful costumes, she and her fellow dancers undulated across the stage to recorded music and got a loud round of applause when they finished.

"We've been practicing for a long time," Ms. Shea said afterward. "You can study this dance for years and still find room for improvement."

Cathy Weygandt of Findlay said the Polish music reminded her of the weddings she attended as a girl at the former Polish Village Tavern in Rossford.

Mrs. Weygandt, whose maiden name is - very Polish - Dzienny, grew up in West Toledo.

"There would be hundreds and hundreds of people at those weddings," she recalled. "The music was the same, but we didn't see the costumes. They ate pierogies too."

Toledo has seven sister cities: Toledo, Spain; Qinhuangdo, China; Szeged, Hungary; Poznan, Poland; Toyohashi, Japan; Tanga, Tanzania, and Delmenhorst, Germany.

Each of the sister-city relationships is overseen by a local committee.

Bill Hoover, chairman of the Toyohashi committee, said this week represents the 10th anniversary of the relationship with the Japanese city.

To mark the anniversary, Toyohashi is sending a delegation of 100 that is scheduled to arrive Thursday.

Most of delegation consists of musicians and choir members who will give performances in the area, said Mr. Hoover, who retired from the University of Toledo as a professor of Japanese history.

Mrs. Kohler estimated that total attendance at the five-hour event yesterday exceeded 500.

Lauren Lowrey, an anchor-reporter for WTOL-TV Channel 11, served as master of ceremonies along with Toledo City Councilman Rob Ludeman.

"When I walked in, I was floored by how many people were here," she said. "I think everybody wants to show their culture."

Contact Carl Ryan at:

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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