Festival of Nations 2016

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The crowd perusing treats at the Festival of Nations

A few weeks ago, Lindsay invited me to experience a venerable Twin Cities event I have never tried before; the Festival of Nations, the oldest multicultural festival in the entire Midwest! Held at the St. Paul RiverCentre, this was definitely a fun thing to do as late spring begins to warm up the streets of downtown St. Paul. Celebrating the role of immigrants in the community, each year focuses on a different aspect of the world cultures. The theme this year was a great one for me to start with considering my interests; Folklore and Fairytales, which are always a fascinating way to get deeper insight into the varied worldviews of nations, and how they are similar as well.  

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A bit of Slovenia (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

In the exhibition area, a multitude of countries had storytellers to introduce other people to their famous stories and legends they are known for, such as the various yokai and yurei of Japan, a Mongolian storytelling yurt, and, of course, the krampus of Austria, among many others. In addition, there were plenty of vendors selling the arts and crafts of people from around the world, including some very nice Senegalese pottery, of which Lindsay picked up a pretty blue bowl. As St. Paul continues to be a hub for new immigrants to the US, the festival was a diverse and vibrant taste of global cultures. In most cases literally, as the bulk of the festival (or at least what Lindsay and I were most drawn to) seems to be the treats and delicacies offered by the various participating cultures.

Lindsay and I arrived hungry, and we set upon the first couple of nations represented in the line of venders selling the cultural treats of each national heritage- the Dutch and the Palestinians, where we snacked on some Dutch cheeses, some sort of fig bread, and some cheap Lipton-esque tea, along with a tasty mango drink and a thick, doughy spinach pie. It became apparent that, as much as we would want to, we would not be able to taste every single country represented, it was just too much. Staring down the line of painted facades that served as storefronts for the makeshift restaurants of the festival, I was reminded of the Renaissance festival with their funny 2-D cultural monickers on each booth.

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aebleskiver and a young coconut

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Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Grabbing a whole young coconut from the Cambodian booth, a delicious fry bread from the Native American, wonderful Colombian arepas, a pile of delectable Danish desserts (stroopwafels and aebleskiver), and a Turkish borek (another spinach pastry) we quickly dug into our feast. These were all great, but we were stuffed and there was still half the nations to get through, so we digested and went up to the Roy Wilkins Auditorium to watch some dance performances. We took in the national ethnic dances of the Polish, Egyptian, Tamil, and Czech and Slovak peoples performed by local dance troupes. After we’d watched enough vibrant dancing and colorful traditional garb, we headed back for some Korean dumplings and, sadly, the worst churro we’d ever had. Oh well!   

I would definitely be excited to return next year, and $11 for adults is not too bad a price! The food, of course, is not included with admission, but for the most part was not too expensive, though some were of better value than others.

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Light up the Night at the American Swedish Institute

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Rupert Angeleyes performs in front of Turnblad Mansion

Where does the time go? Last time I wrote, an entry for my “Where U Wanna Eat?” segment, I wasn’t even in Minnesota, but spending a couple weeks in southern California. Spring popped up while we were gone, and now it’s practically summer! We got back some weeks ago, and adventures were had, but what with the move to St. Paul and my goodbye to living in Minneapolis, I’ve had my hands full. Better late than never, over the next few entries I’ll write up accounts of a few fun things I’ve done recently, and some fun traditions and new things that I’m looking forward to in the next few months!

Last spring, I attended one of the elegant American Swedish Institute’s fetes, Cocktails at the Castle, an intermittent event in the spring. I attended again this year on May 6th with my girlfriend Lindsay, her first time visiting the American Swedish Institute’s “castle,” Turnblad Mansion. The theme this year was “light up the night,” and we arrived early and spent the entire evening there, eating Scandinavian delicacies like herring and potato salad and drinking some of ASI’s special cocktails on the mansion’s lawn. The entertaining local “music project” Rupert Angeleyes performed on the steps of the mansion, setting up an awesome vibe. Lindsay and I have seen them perform before and they always put on a great show, one that really suited the festive atmosphere.

 

After the show, we painted a watercolor together, explored the mansion from top to bottom, searching for clues for the scavenger hunt, and then got a tour of the entire universe courtesy of the Bell Museum’s traveling planetarium. It was a lovely, warm night and a great time. Like last year, though, it was definitely a bit on the steep side, with a ticket price of $22 each, not counting the food or drink.

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Our watercolor masterpiece! 

As the summer progresses, some of my favorite local events are coming up, many of which are free to experience! Northern Spark is approaching in just a few weeks and looks wonderful, as usual. I’m also looking forward to visiting the Floating Library again later in the summer, and to the many Open Streets events that occur throughout Minneapolis. There will be new events to report on this summer as well, and I’m so excited to experience all the great things Minneapolis and St. Paul pull out for these months of warmth in Minnesota.  

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Enjoying a Scandinavian beer at Cocktails at the Castle. Not a cocktail, I know!