Festival provides cheap glimpse at world
Matt and Theresa Miller of Ramsey have been fortunate enough to travel to many of the places represented at Saturday’s World on the Square event in downtown Corydon. They said they brought their two children to the single-day event so they could experience a small piece of the world, if only for the afternoon.
‘This lets them see different stuff from what they are used to, experience different things, different people and different places, and it’s kind of fun,’ Matt Miller said. ‘Plus, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than flying to these countries.’
Nearly two dozen nations were represented in small booths in and around the town square for four hours at the ninth annual event, which is staged by Community Unity.
The first World on the Square event was put on by Community Unity as a way to counter a September 1999 visit to Corydon by the Ku Klux Klan. The annual family-oriented festival highlights the diverse heritage of the Kentuckiana region, which historically includes not only settlers from many European countries, but also the Native American and African-American presence. The festival also features the arrival of Spanish-speaking immigrants from Mexico and the rest of Central and South America, and newcomers from the Middle East and Far East, such as Palestine, Egypt and Vietnam.
‘I felt like the crowd was at least on par with last year or maybe a little better,’ said Allen J. Lopp, who co-chaired the event with Melissa Jackson. ‘What was interesting is that the crowd didn’t wait until 4 p.m. to show up. They were there earlier than what we were supposed to start, and they stayed for a while.
‘The weather was almost perfect,’ he said. ‘Last year, we had 31 exhibitors, and this year we had 29, so the numbers are still there, which is good. Now we get ready for next year, which will be our 10th year. The committee has some ideas as to what they’d like to do special but nothing specific just yet.’
Children received a festival ‘passport’ that they could take to the various international exhibits, collecting answers to questions that earned them a prize. Many of the children also played international board games and made African masks.
For the adults, just the lineup of entertainment was enough to bring folks to WOTS, but the picture-perfect weather didn’t hurt, either.
Anthony Redfeather Nava, a repeat performer at the event, is from the Pascua Yaqui Nation of Arizona. He was born in Germany while his father, Everado Nava, was stationed in the military. His mother, Mary Nava Fraire, is from the Keetowah Band of Cherokee of Oklahoma. The family eventually settled in Kentucky.
Appearing in full Native American Indian dress, he played a flute and then talked to the large crowd about Indian customs and the wide range of language, religious, musical and cultural differences between the various tribes in North America.
Raqia (a stagename for Rachel Reich) is a belly dancer who was born in Chicago, reared in Puerto Rico and now lives in New Albany. She was joined by other hip-shaking, sultry belly dancers as they performed in front of the Hurley D. Conrad Memorial Bandstand. She’s a member of the Tribal Fusion Troupe ‘Gypsies of the Nile’ and teaches beginning belly dance classes in Southern Indiana and Louisville. She was awarded the Best Belly Dance Instructor by Best of Louisville Magazine in 2007.
Rick Haines, director of Harrison County Tae Kwon Do School in Lanesville, also performed with several of his students. They skillfully demonstrated forms, broke a few boards and showed the audience some of the inner workings of martial arts.
Hussam Al-Aydi, a professional Middle Eastern musician, is Palestinian born and was reared in Qatar, a small country in the Persian Gulf area. He has been playing and studying music since he was 7. He studied music for five years at the College of Music in Cairo, Egypt. His musical talents include playing the Aoud, piano, keyboard, singing and Arabic percussion.
Oddly, while he loves all types of world music, he especially loves American blues and jazz music.
Al-Aydi is the president of Golden Promise Entertainment, a company he created to bring quality Middle Eastern music and entertainment to Louisville and the surrounding region. In addition to running his company, he is the leader of an Arabic music and dance ensemble called Baladna, which was part of his performance Saturday.
Baladna, which means ‘our country” in Arabic, is a group of talented musicians and dancers that Al-Aydi has gathered together. This diverse group has members from different Arab countries as well as American-born musicians and dancers.
The Louisville band known as Appalatin also played music. They described their brand of tunes as a unique blend of cultures, part Appalachian, part Latino but, most importantly, world. Formed in 2006, band members Fernando Moya, Steve Sizemore, Yani Vozos and Marlon Obando Solano said the purpose of the music is not only to share folkloric and popular songs from Latin America, but to bring a message of a fair and just world; one of hope, joy, and love.
One of the more popular spots at this year’s event was at a South Korean booth, where 80-year-old Ho Sun Kim made various paintings of Korean art that were later adorned with Korean translations of English words. Kim’s slow, deliberate brush strokes turned what began to look like a faded line into sticks of bamboo or a hodgepodge of paint blobs into an Oriental flower.
Kim, who lives in Louisville, is a famous artist in her home country.
Another popular attraction at World on the Square was the ethnic food tasting at the Corydon United Methodist Church. A steady stream of visitors lined up outside until the food was gone at about 5:30 p.m.
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