Curious about the increasingly multi-cultural communities that live within our area? Want to enjoy entertainment with an international flair? Wish you could cook ethnic specialties — but don't have the time, or the expertise?
The Somerset Hills YMCA has scheduled the 18th annual International Festival for 2 to 4:30 p.m. for this Sunday at 140 Mt. Airy Road in Basking Ridge. The completely volunteer-run festive event brings together people and groups from the YMCA's communities.
Those volunteers represent the diverse people and cultures of the world, as well as the residents who live in the YMCA's community base in the Somerset Hills and Warren.
There are approximately 75 to 100 volunteers who work on this event either by serving on the committee, hosting a country table, performing a dance/song, or who help with running the event including set up, check in, runners, clean up and more.
"Volunteers are from many of the surrounding towns – a true community event!" said Megeen Laska, spokesperson for the YMCA. Those towns include Basking Ridge, Bernardsville, Warren, Bedminster, Plainsboro, Chester, Bridgewater and more, she said.
The event originally had been set for earlier, but was changed for scheduling reasons, according to the YMCA.
A full plate — and eyeful and earful — of cultural variety
Those who attend International Day can expect to enjoy music, dance performances, food and art that represent many countries, thanks to the support of an enthusiastic volunteer committee, according to information from the YMCA.
In describing the event, Sylvia Velez, Director of Member & Volunteer Engagement at the Y, said, “This event is so much fun. It’s like having a little bit of EPCOT in your backyard!”
Additional volunteers from the community will showcase samples of international cuisine, clothing, pottery, books and more from their home countries.
International Festival Day is open to the public. A suggested donation of $10 per family or $5 per individual will benefit the YMCA World Service Fund.
Anyone interested in representing a country by hosting a table or performing should contact Sylvia Velez at 908-630-3530 by October 11. For more information on the event, visit www.somersethillsymca.org.
The Somerset Hills YMCA’s commitment to celebrating culture, diversity and global engagement is the goal of various Y initiatives throughout the year that focus on youth development and social responsibility, according to the organization.
This past summer, local teens traveled to Prague, Czech Republic as a Somerset Hills YMCA delegation to participate in LOVE 2 LIVE, the YMCA Europe Festival. The festival brought together nearly 6,000 teens and young adults from around the world to celebrate life, culture and diversity. The teens were provided opportunities to discover their power to make a positive social impact, locally and globally. The teens, who represented the Somerset Hills YMCA in Prague, will participate in the International Festival by hosting a table for the Czech Republic and by sharing experiences and photos from their trip.
In a separate initiative, David Carcieri, President and CEO of the Somerset Hills YMCA, went to Haiti with executives from other Ys to identify cooperative opportunities for Ys in the United States to help support the Haiti YMCA with the goal of providing a sense of hope for a better future for the children of the island country.
“Diverse culture is the fabric of our community,” Carcieri said. “We, at the Y, feel so fortunate to be able to celebrate culture through global initiatives like international outreach and through grassroots initiatives like the International Festival.”