It was just warm enough Saturday afternoon for kids to cool off in the giant fountain at Riverfront Park. The day-long Unity in the Community celebration, however, closed out with cool temperatures and a bit of rain.
Not that the weather stopped anyone from enjoying the annual event highlighting cultural diversity, now in its 15th year.
Unity in the Community started as an event in Liberty Park geared toward the African-American community, attracting only a few hundred people. Now it brings together nearly every culture in town and sprawls through Riverfront Park. The event attracted 8,000 people last year and organizers hoped to top 10,000 this year, said Ben Cabildo, director of Community-Based Economic Development.
“We outgrew Liberty Park,” he said. “Look at it now. Every nationality is here.”
The Clocktower Meadow was densely packed with booths and a stage for live entertainment. Performance groups ranged from Hawaiian dancers to Chinese dancers to church choirs.
“We have more variety this year than in previous years,” Cabildo said.
A Bamboo Dance performed by members of the Filipino American Association was followed by the break-dancing group Paper Cut Out Crew. The dancers did tricks that were well received by the cheering crowd, including spinning on their heads and doing flips in the grass in front of the stage.
The group includes David Moyle, 19, Dmitrious Bistrevsky, 21, Hector Aizone, 18, and Tucker Frye, 19. The group started performing together about six months ago and spends about three hours a day four or five times a week rehearsing. They don’t have much formal training. “We watched a lot of Internet videos,” Frye said.
They signed up to perform at Unity in the Community to get their name out, Moyle added. “It seemed like a really good opportunity for us,” he said. “We love performing.”
Janet Harris and her daughter Isabella, 9, watched the crew perform and then took a break at a picnic table to enjoy some blue bubblegum ice cream. “That was really fun to watch,” Janet Harris said. She liked the event because of the chance to learn about cultures that aren’t usually highly visible in the community.
“It’s cool because there are lots of different cultures here,” said Isabella Harris.
Cabildo was pleased to see the diversity of the crowd attending the multi-cultural event. “The goal is to really bring all the community together and really connect, really learn from each other,” he said.