The Feast of Nations

56 years of global food and festivities

Aimee Coons, Arts & Community Writer

The night was filled with excitement as more than a thousand people filled the Alerus Center for the Feast of Nations. My editor Devon Abler and I dressed to the nines and were very excited for the festivities. Even though it was our first time attending, this was the Feast of Nations’ 56th annual event. 

To open the event, ELITE Dance Crew, local to Grand Forks, preformed a modern Hispanic inspired dance. Jishnu Basu and Nicholas Foo, the Masters of Ceremonies, took the stage introducing the theme and history of the Feast of Nations. 

The Feast of Nations originally started with international students of UND getting together and sharing their countries’ native foods with each other. Since then it has grown to a community wide event celebrating world cultures with fantastic food. 

This year’s theme for Feast of Nations was “journeys of the spice trade.” Guests had the opportunity to try foods from the United Arab Emirates, India, Bahrain, China and Sri Lanka. 

As the appetizer, Labnah with Naan, was served, the Quidel Chilean Folk Dance Group performed a traditional Polanyian dance originating from the Ester Islands. It was my first time trying all the foods served that night, but Labnah was easily my favorite. Labnah is a strained Greek Yogurt with olive oil and za’atar, a spice blend. 

After the dance performance, President Kennedy and Mayor Brown said a few opening words. They both spoke of how the event benefitted the community and celebrated diversity. 

The Balkansi Klezmer Band preformed songs drawn from Romanian and Jewish traditions. The Korean Culture Exchange Club performed a dance to go along with the song DNA by BTS, an up and coming Korean pop band. Newzaira Khan and Calen Van Ornum performed a dance from the Bollywood movie Happy New Year. 

As the performances were going on, the salad course, Minted Cucumber Salad from India, was brought out. The salad was light and refreshing. 

The Rozmai Ukrainian Dance Company performed a traditional Ukrainian dance. The company is based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Easily the largest group to perform at the event, the company dazzled the guests with their high energy dancing and acrobatics. Dances included lots of high kicks, flips, jumps and pirouettes. 

The North Dakota Ballet Company performed dances from “The Nutcracker Ballet.” The dances consisted of themes from Spanish, Arabian and Russian dance. 

The main courses of the event were served as the North Dakota Ballet Company performed. Guests had the option to order either Machboos, a chicken and rice dish from Bahrain or Black Pepper Tofu from China. As we enjoyed the wonderful food, Clearly Celtic performed traditional Celtic music. 

As the meal ended, the Filipina American Student Association performed a traditional dance from the Philippines and the UND Music Students German Band performed traditional German music. As the German Band played, the dessert course Watalappan, a cardamom spiced coconut custard from Sri Lanka, was served.  Watalappan is a slightly sweet coconut custard (a creamy thicker pudding) served with cashews on top. 

To end the event, the Wushu Manitoba Chinese Lion Dance troupe performed a traditional dance with a Chinese Lion costume. The dance was enormously impressive. Two dancers were in the costume. The dancer in the back of the Lion was bent over almost the entire dance. The front dancer had control of the head of the Lion, making the mouth and eyes of the lion move. The two dancers moved together making the Lion dance in time to the music. They moved through the tables of guests giving everyone a wonderful close up look of the Lion. 

With the conclusion of the Chinese Lion Dance, the event also ended. It was a wonderful evening filled with fantastic food and dazzling performances. 

The Feast of Nations was organized by the International Organization Leadership Committee at UND. The event was a tremendous success and we look forward to next year. 

Aimee Coons is an a&c writer for Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].