Swaths of people toured the world Saturday just by taking a stroll through Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane.
The 28th edition of Unity in the Community, dubbed by organizers as the largest multicultural celebration in the Inland Northwest, allowed a space for attendees to learn about different countries while linking them with business and nonprofit resources they may need.
Lance Kissler, chairman of the Spokane Human Rights Commission, which planted a booth on the park lawn, said the various food, educational materials and activities provided “a little something for everyone to learn a little something about everyone.”
“I think that’s important for people to experience,” he said.
Many people entered the event by walking on a pathway lined by countries’ flags on either side of them. Booths representing nations like Germany, Finland and the Philippines were set up with eager people on the other side of the table to explain what their country was about.
Fernando Castillo manned the Colombia booth, telling attendees some of the country’s exports are coffee and emeralds.
“And we love soccer, but we call it fùtbol,” the native Colombian said.
Castillo’s wife, Angela Castillo, said her husband works at Umpqua Bank and April Anderson, Unity in the Community co-chair and an Umpqua employee, told Fernando Castillo to open a Colombian booth at the event. Around five years later, Fernando Castillo continues to tell passersby about the South American country.
“We love it because we like to share with people our culture and we really like when people show so much interest,” Fernando Castillo said.
People from each nation booth stamped the children’s “passport.” The youngsters could present their passport to Spokane Teachers Credit Union, which handed the children backpacks with paper, notebooks, binders, pens, crayons and other school supplies.
Tera Federspiel stopped by the country booths with her young son and her neighbors. She said the gathering is a good way to meet people and new vendors.
She said they stopped by a dentist’s booth one year and became patients of the business. On Saturday, they walked through the country booths and were on their way to collect school supplies and check out vendors.
“We always do this every year,” Federspiel said. “It’s a good way for the kids to get to learn different countries and what they stand for and everything they represent.”
Several food vendors were nearby.
Hope Hassan, of Hope’s Mini Delights, was selling her traditional Egyptian butter cookies, which she called “very soft and very buttery.”
Hassan, who came from Egypt to Spokane seven years ago, said she makes the mini cookies from scratch using her grandmother’s recipe.
“When you try them, they just melt in your mouth,” she said.
Kissler said the city’s Human Rights Commission let people know about the commission and the city’s Office of Civil Rights, Equity, and Inclusion, the latter of which the City Council passed in December.
“With all the different cultures and groups that are represented here, it’s important for us to have a presence so that they all know that there’s a resource for them when it comes to human and civil rights, not just in Spokane, but the greater Spokane area,” Kissler said.
Other booths near the clock tower included local politicians, law enforcement, colleges, medical facilities and much more. Face painting and sketches were done near Spokane’s Sheriff Community Oriented Policing Effort, which was fitting people for bicycle helmets.
Different cultural performances, like dances, were conducted on a stage at the base of the clock tower.
“I just think it’s important because with all the different tensions going on in the community and in the world, it’s just bringing people together,” Anderson said of the event.
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