Las Vegas Sun

October 24, 2014

Currently: 87° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

HIGHER EDUCATION:

UNLV’s diversity on display at annual festival

Image

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Members of the Las Vegas Bavarian Club perform at UNLV’s Festival of Communities Saturday, April 21, 2012.

2012 UNLV Festival of Communities

Krishna Shrestha serves Jordyn Hay Nepalese momo dumplings at UNLV's Festival of Communities Saturday, April 21, 2012. Launch slideshow »

THREE NOTEWORTHY BOOTHS

• Although there are only 18 Nepalese students enrolled at UNLV, the Nepalese Student Association came out in full force, offering traditional ethnic dishes such as Momo chicken dumplings and Chhoila, a pork and spice dish. UNLV engineering graduate student Dinesh Kandel and his wife, Sushma Tiwan Kandel — who was wearing a traditional Kurtha dress — said they hoped festival-goers would come away with a better understanding of their Himalayan homeland, which has eight of the top 15 tallest mountains in the world.

• A booth from German restaurant Café Berlin drew a few exclamations of “Vundabar!” (German for “wonderful!”) for its sizzling bratwursts and sausages. Executive Chef Rainer Matz, a seven-year Las Vegan who is originally from Germany, said he set up the booth to showcase his recently opened restaurant, located at 4850 W. Sunset Road. Matz said he hopes to invite German language students from UNLV to his restaurant to practice their speaking skills and to taste traditional German cuisine, which he emphatically said is not all from the Bavarian province.

• The Native American Student Association may represent only 1 percent of the student population, but has — as members' black T-shirts read — 100 percent pride in their heritage. The group was selling traditional fry bread and Horchata rice tea to raise money for multicultural events. The group’s faculty advisor, Christopher Kypuros—– whose ancestry is Mexica, an indigenous Mexican ethnic group — said that although there are many discussions on campus surrounding Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American issues, Native American issues are not as prominent. “No one talks about Native American issues,” he said. “We’re here today to make ourselves visible.”

Exotic smells wafted across the UNLV campus quad as Brazilian Capoeria martial artists performed on the alumni amphitheater to the tune of percussive Berimbau instruments and drums.

Nearby, brightly costumed Japanese Taiko drummers walked alongside festive Chinese Dragon dancers. A little ways away, Nepalese and Filipino student groups as well as cooks from a local German restaurant doled out traditional ethnic dishes to hungry patrons.

Welcome to UNLV’s 14th annual Festival of Communities, a fitting multicultural event for a campus ranked this year by U.S. News and World Report as having the 10th most diverse student population in the nation.

The festival began more than a decade ago as a platform for various international student groups to showcase their cultures and traditions. But five years ago, the festival was expanded to a community-wide event celebrating Las Vegas’ cultural diversity, said Randy McCrillis, director of the university’s civic engagement and diversity office.

It’s also a great way to reach out to a community more known for the glitz of the Strip than its growing research university nearby, McCrillis said.

“A lot of folks here have never been on campus,” he said. “We’d like for the community to venture forth and see what it’s like to be a Rebel.”

In a burgeoning city craving more cultural events, the Festival of Communities has become a popular attraction, drawing about 7,000 visitors last year. Despite the mercury heading toward triple digits, hundreds of families and students attended the daylong festival Saturday.

More than 150 booths representing fraternities and student groups, local restaurants and businesses, showcased their food, crafts and missions. Musical, performance and dance groups — from Tae Kwon Do martial artists to belly dancers — performed on two stages located at either end of the grassy quad. Young children frolicked in a special kids zone overshadowed by a gigantic colorful bouncy slide.

North Las Vegas resident Kelly LaPorte said she came to the festival to support a friend displaying handmade jewelry at one of the many booths. However, the Australia native said she also wanted to expose her 1-year-old daughter to the melting pot that is Las Vegas.

“It’s nice to see so many different cultures in one city,” she said, comparing Las Vegas’ diversity to New York City’s — a more established metropolis with four times the valley’s population. “The crowd here is very multicultural.”

For Rhonda Groce, a program officer with the university’s international programs office, the diverse theme of the Festival of Communities played right into her pitch. Standing in front of a booth festooned with colorful flags representing some of UNLV’s 39 study abroad programs in 25 countries, Groce wanted to encourage students and families to travel, pick up a new language and experience the world’s rich cultural offerings.

“We’re becoming a multinational society,” she said. “It’s important to meet people from foreign lands and learn new languages. It can help students find a job.”

For student groups, the Festival of Communities has become a major fundraising venue for various events and activities. Dozens of student groups representing various international communities and political causes paid a $30 booth fee to sell food and handmade wares to support their missions.

UNLV senior Anson Arakaki, president of the Raising Our Asian Rights coalition, was busy most of the day Saturday cooking Yakisoba, a traditional Japanese fried noodle dish. He said he was hoping to sell enough plates to fund a special graduation ceremony recognizing pan-Asian students at UNLV.

As one of the largest multicultural events on campus, the festival was the perfect place to raise money for international groups and recruit new members, a tough calling on a commuter campus, Arakaki said.

“I hope people learn about a culture they haven’t seen before,” Arakaki said. “Hopefully, by bringing different cultures together, it will broaden their horizons.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 1 comment so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Somebody needs to work on their marketing skills... I had no idea about this event.

    Sad part is... I'm UNLV Alumni.

    "A lot of folks here have never been on campus," he said. "We'd like for the community to venture forth and see what it's like to be a Rebel."

    I would suggest doing a better job getting Alumni more involved first.

    Just Saying..