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Multicultural Fair makes big comeback at Silver Ridge

Tom Dooghan and his daughter, Madison, a second-grader at Silver Ridge Elementary School, read to a packed gym at Thursday’s Multicultural Fair. The Dooghans read a book called “Where Are You Going? To See My Friend!” once in English, then again in Japanese.  - Photo by Paul Balcerak
Tom Dooghan and his daughter, Madison, a second-grader at Silver Ridge Elementary School, read to a packed gym at Thursday’s Multicultural Fair. The Dooghans read a book called “Where Are You Going? To See My Friend!” once in English, then again in Japanese.
— image credit: Photo by Paul Balcerak

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

Students, staff and parents packed the gym and “pod area” of Silver Ridge Elementary School Thursday night for the first Multicultural Fair in about 10 years.

There wasn’t any shortage of activity, as attendees were treated to performances, food samplings, language recitals and more from the 22 cultures and religions represented at the event.

Students at Silver Ridge prepared projects that were on display and parents were invited to set up booths in the pod area to showcase whatever culture was unique to them.

“It’s a phenomenon that happens here,” event organizer and P.E. teacher GeorgAnn Swanberg said. “You see people that you’d never see because they want to share their heritage.”

Meegan Wainwright, a parent of two current Silver Ridge students and one former, had a booth set up displaying her family’s Latvian background.

“I’ve met quite a few Latvians over here – more than I knew (were here),” she said.

Wainwright’s mother came to the United States from Latvia when she was 8 years old. Wainwright, who is half Latvian, learned to speak the language at a young age and passed it on to her kids, who weren’t shy about showing off their bilingual skills.

“Since they didn’t get to meet their great grandmother and grandfather, I wanted them to have (a knowledge) of the culture,” she said.

She was just as willing to share that knowledge with everyone else at the event, which is exactly what Swanberg and Silver Ridge staffers were hoping for.

“We really wanted people to come in and share with us, as opposed to us putting something on,” Principal Steve Anderson said.

The event has occurred before, for three years, from 1996 to 1998. After a long hiatus, Anderson and his staff started to realize the demand for the event was fairly large.

A parent survey conducted “a couple years ago” revealed that people in the community were becoming “more distanced from the school,” Anderson said.

Hence the drive to put on another Multicultural Fair and make cultural awareness and learning part of everyday classroom exercises.

“We wanted to ... make it a part of what we do all the time,” Anderson said. “I think it’s a real important piece that we would want to continue.”

Swanberg, who organized the previous Multicultural Fairs in the mid-to-late ’90s, was surprised at the turnout and said she was testing the waters to see what happened.

“I just wanted something where I felt like the community could come together,” she said.

She also agreed with Anderson’s desire to continue the fair next year.

“I think we’ll do it two years in a row and then survey the landscape,” Swanberg said.

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