Posted on

They wouldn’t miss World on Square

They wouldn’t miss World on Square
They wouldn’t miss World on Square
Rakia Mahmoud of Louisville, a native of Eritreia, in East Africa, prepares her jewelry stand for the third annual World on the Square. (Photo by Randy West)

A Sellersburg man who teaches in the Economics School of Business at Indiana University Southeast wanted to attend last year’s World on the Square festival in Corydon but his in-laws were visiting — from India.
This year, Janardhanan (Johnny) Alse and his wife, Asha, kept the second Saturday in August open so they could have a display booth about India, their homeland, at the festival.
“This is a wonderful experience for children,” Alse said of Saturday’s four-hour event on the town square. Other booths showcased Mexico, Scotland, Ecuador, Finland, France, Korea, Native Americans, the Algonquin Confederacy, Nigeria, Malaysia and Vietnam.
“It gives them a taste of diversity,” Alse said.
(Also represented were the Irish Society of Kentuckiana, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Louisville Committee for Israeli-Palestinian States, Louisville International Cultural Center, Empathy First, German Heritage, Hispanic Connection, the Underground Railroad and the Lick Creek Archaeological Site.)
The festival was created in 2000 by a group called Community Unity in response to an appearance in Corydon by the Ku Klux Klan the year before. Community Unity designed the festival to help teach and encourage cultural diversity.
Kirby Bachman, co-chair of the event with Ila Cornett, termed the festival “absolutely wonderful.
“There were people making connections with each other and having really meaningful exchanges,” she said.
That’s one of Community Unity’s objectives through the World on the Square, Bachman said: For people who come from different cultures to become acquainted and meet their neighbors, rather than be strangers.
Exposure to different nationalities was nothing new for several National Honor Society students from Fort Knox (Ky.) High School who helped teacher Martha Partin of Corydon with a booth about Costa Rica. Many of them travel with their families in the military. But they still were impressed with what the festival provided.
Jacky Morales, a senior from Puerto Rico, said people asked about two food samplings — Tostones de Platano and Fried Ripe Plantains — prepared at their booth by Mark Partin.
Native German Andrea Machesney, a substitute teacher at Fort Knox, also helped.
“I think this is great,” she said. “I think it’s important to be introduced to different customs and cultures,” she said.
Machesney said the festival helped provide visual details that school books often lack, adding that Fort Knox plans to use a new textbook this year that attempts to integrate several aspects of learning, including food and customs, rather than just history.
While there is no way to know how many people attended this year’s event, Bachman said she thought attendance was up over last year, although “it wasn’t an overwhelmingly” number.
“My hats off to the people who’ve taken the time and resources,” Alse said. “It’s a wonderful thing that they’ve done for the community — the food, the culture — for all who call America home.”
He brought his two sons, Vishnua, 9, and Varun, 7, along for the experience.
Their booth included a “fast facts” sheet about the seventh largest country in the world. Also, the Alses had artifacts and history books and leaf paintings that Janardhanan had framed himself.
“I knew this (event) was more of an educational thing,” he said. “I wanted to do my share.”
Alse said he and family intend to return next year.
“I’ll come back,” he said. “It’s fun. I like interacting with people.”
From 4 to 8 p.m., persons also enjoyed musical entertainment, provided by the Ritmo Latino Salsa Band, Malek Middle Eastern Dancers, McClanahan Irish step dancers, and Ten Penny Bit band. Tae Kwon Do practitioners also demonstrated their martial art before large crowds.
In the basement of the Corydon United Methodist Church, a “free taste” of dishes from various countries were provided, by volunteer cooks throughout the county. Samplings included couscous (Algeria), bu’uelos (Mexico), mejadarah (Palestine), gazpacho (Spain), yellow curry (India), fried rice (Japan) and Indiana cherry tomatoes. The buffet started at 4 p.m., and the food was gone in about one hour.
Festival organizers are still trying to resolve the “taste and sample” of food available that disappears quickly. One solution is to canvas for more food donations.
Attendance could be considerably higher next year, as Community Unity knows that the World on the Square event is being placed on statewide festival calendars.
“What a wonderful way for a small community that is experiencing a shift in its make-up to celebrate,” Bachman said, summing up with one attendee’s thoughts.