Last Saturday, I had a chance to visit the 58th Annual Feast of Nations 2020 which took place in the Alerus Center. Since 1961 UND has a tradition to celebrate different cultures, communities, and diversity by organizing this event.
Each year the Feast of Nations brings together some of the most talented and unique performers in the world. These groups travel from near and far to bring a taste of their culture to the University of North Dakota. Along with student performances, this year Feast of Nations had more than 10 diverse performances, according to UND website.
In the beginning of its journey, the Feast of Nations was a small event where international students were getting together, sharing their cultures and traditional food with each other. Since then, this event has grown into the biggest multicultural event in the region that allows people to celebrate different cultures and delicious food. More than a thousand people come to this event to enjoy the music and international food.
The Feast of Nations is hosted annually by the UND International Organization. The UND International Organization is an on-campus student organization, whose mission is to enhance goodwill and an understanding of cultures within the UND campus and the Greater Grand Forks communities. This organization is not just for international students on campus, but for all individuals and groups who are interested in sharing and learning about culture and diversity. Thus, they welcome everyone who wants to join their group.
This year, the theme of the Feast of Nations was “Waves of Culture.” The idea of this theme was to acknowledge how the oceans of the world bring people together, and how they influence them. All guests had a chance to take a virtual cruise around the world.
The event began with a social hour at 5 p.m., where guests could feel like celebrities by taking pictures on the red carpet. Everyone took this opportunity and patiently waited in line until their turn. It did not feel that long to be in line because you could chat with interesting and charismatic people by sharing your cultural heritages with each other.
The ceremony started at 6 p.m. and guests were welcomed by members of UND International Organization. The entertainment started with the ELITE Dance Crew who is a hip-hop crew with a global style based here out of Grand Forks. They were performing a dance with a different mix of music to warm-up the crowd.
Later on, two Masters of Ceremonies, Warren Sai and Janee Harris, introduced each course and talented performers while guests were able to relax and enjoy the event.
Followed by the introduction of the masters of ceremonies, I had a chance to perform on the stage myself.
I am originally from Russia, and I wanted to share my cultural heritage with everyone. I sang two traditional Russian folk songs. Although people could not understand a word of what I was singing about, everyone was listening. Afterwards, multiple guests thanked me for sharing my culture with them. I was pleased by how many people showed an interest in my culture.
This was my third year visiting the Feast of Nations, and a second year of me performing on the stage for this event. I like to be a part of this event because I like to learn new international cultures and their traditions. I enjoy seeing the Grand Forks community sharing their cultural experience with each other.
After my performance, the UND Provost and a Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas DiLorenzo, and Mayor of the City of Grand Forks Mike Brown said a few opening words.
The members of UND International Organizations including the president, Abby Lund, the vice president Ranju Dhungana, and the advisor Katherine Dachtler welcomed everyone who came to enjoy the event.
There was a four course meal served throughout the event. This meal featured dishes from island and coastal nations. Guests had the opportunity to try meals from Greece, Crete, England, Italy, and France.
The appetizer was Spanakopita which originated in Greece. The Cretan salad which originated in Crete had a fresh and unique taste. They had two different options for the entree. The non-vegetarian option was Beef Wellington from England or the vegetarian option which was Pasta alla Norma from Italy. Lastly the dessert was Riz au Lait which originated in France. All of the foods had a delicious flavor that the guests enjoyed.
There were tea stations set up throughout the ballroom so guests could choose their choice of tea at the end of their meals.
The Feast of Nations offered the unique cultural tables on the north end of the Alerus Center Ballroom. The idea of it was for people to explore the world through the UND students and organizations representing a variety of cultures. Those who wanted to participate had to grab a passport from the cultural tables entry point and begin the cultural journey by collecting passport stamps at every table. The rule was to write down the name inside the passport before dropping it into the doorprize box at the end of the cultural tables. Prizes included one pair of event-long, unlimited entry visas to Folklorama, which is the largest and the longest-running multicultural festival of its kind in the world that will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba from August 2-15, 2020.
It was a pleasure to see many people dressing up in formal outfits. Some people wore their authentic costumes which showed that the Feast of Nations is all about international traditions and creativity.
Korean Culture Exchange Club was performing a K-pop dance that was full of energy. The poppy songs made the crowd feel more engaged in the event.
Groups like Marigold DC., Fillipino-American Student Organization, African Dance Group, and North Dakota Klezmer came from very different backgrounds and each added a unique flavor to the event—much to guest’s enjoyment.
There was a Rockalypso, with Glen Williams, is a Caribbean band with talented and creative stage presence that brings to life the rich Caribbean and Calypso rhythms. The group’s beautiful harmonies and relaxed reggae style brought audiences to the islands. Rockalypso is full of incredibly talented musicians and vocalists that kept the audience captivated and dancing in the aisles throughout the show.
A few members from UND Kendo Club were demonstrating the art of Kendo, a traditional Japanese martial art, which descended from swordsmanship and uses bamboo swords and protective armour.
Island Breeze Manitoba was also performing on the stage. It is a group of 10 high energy performers made up of a live band and enthusiastic dancers that represent the Pacific Islands of Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand. Their bright, authentic outfits and love for getting the audience involved gives you a unique, family-friendly cultural performance that you won’t forget. Island Breeze travels all over Canada performing as well as internationally since this group showcases the beauty of the Pacific full-time, according to the UND website.
Other performers including Lili Chang, North Dakota Ballet Company (NDBC), Yiwei Chen, and Somali Dhaanto group brought joy to all guests that attended of this event.
By the end of the day, people were dancing the night away to Rodrigo Munoz “Papa Mambo” who is well known around Winnipeg as the band leader of the popular Latin Jazz ensemble, Papa Mambo, which he formed in the late eighties.
Samantha Grimm is one of the visitors who shared her Feast of Nations experience. She came to the Feast of Nations for the first time but is excited to attend the event next year.
“I like this event. It is such a wonderful experience. I learned about this event from my friend who was performing tonight. I am so glad that I came here. I enjoyed everything. I get to experience all cultures from around the world, taste some interesting foods, and enjoy wonderful music,” Grimm said.
Alicia Fadley is another guest who shared her thoughts about the Feast of Nations. She had heard about this event through social media.
“It [Feast of Nations] has been absolutely wonderful. I enjoyed the celebration of the culture. I loved to eat different foods and experience different cultures. It is energizing, fulfilling, and culturally enhancing. I am a huge arts fan, and it was a pleasure for me to see all these wonderful performances, listening to all this music and feel so global in one evening,” Fadley said.
Every year, the Feast of Nations brings new features for people to enjoy. It is gets better every year. More people come to visit and enjoy this event. This year, the Feast of Nations had a great success and was sold out. The Alerus ballroom was filled with a diverse crowd of people that were all there to share and learn about different cultures.
The Feast of Nations is a great opportunity for people to gather together and celebrate multiple cultures and traditions in one night.
We are looking forward to next year’s Feast of Nations to be able to share cultural experience again.
If you are interested in participating in or helping with Feast of Nations in the future, you can reach out to the UND International Organization on UND campus.