Residents of Gilbert will have a chance to learn more about cultures from across the world at the 10th annual Global Village Festival on April 12.
The event, which is free to the public, features a collection of performances, activities, food and other vendors — those two portions are not free — and the Parade of Nations to celebrate European, Native American, Hispanic, Indian, African, American and beyond. Mike Leppert, Gilbert recreation coordinator for special events, said the totality of the event represents all six inhabitable continents on the planet.
“It’s one of those events that educates people about cultures from around the world,” he said.
Aside from the community entertainment, Leppert said one of the goals of the event is to introduce residents to some of those different cultures they might not have access to otherwise. People who haven’t been to Europe, for example, can get a sampling of Polish culture through a dance performance and a cuisine.
Gilbert Sister Cities Vice President Gayle Disch, who joins the town, Gilbert Public Schools and Gilbert Human Relations Commission as organizers, said another goal is to celebrate the diversity of the town’s residents. That’s something Disch has done herself in previous years – she alternates between celebrating her Irish and Scottish roots (Scottish is her theme this year) on an annual basis.
“It was an outlet for neighbors to get to know each other’s culture,” she said.
Disch said every year offers something a little different for the event, although this year has a little something else that makes it special. Gilbert has two sister cities – Leshan, China and Newtonabbey, Ireland – and the mayor of the latter, Fraser Agnew, will lead the Global Village Festival’s parade. It will be the first time one of the sister cities’ mayors will serve as the grand marshal for the Parade of Nations.
Disch said the process of getting Agnew to visit Gilbert – his trip includes additional town-related events like the Gilbert Mayor’s Ambassador Forum on April 10 – started when Gilbert sent its own delegation to Northern Ireland in 2013, which she said led Agnew to reciprocate.
Having Agnew visit the town and the festival has benefits that extend the cultural exchange, as Disch said the direct connection between the two municipalities could provide a boom for Gilbert’s economy. It’s not just limited to Ireland; she said Gilbert Sister Cities is considering recruiting Winnipeg, Canada to be the town’s third sister city, which aligns with Gilbert’s recent push to create a stronger tie to Canada.
A means of fostering those type of connections, she said, is to host events like the Global Village Festival and engage in the youth ambassador program in which students from Ireland and China come to Gilbert and Gilbert students visit the other cities to keep the relationship close.
“You really have to keep the activities going between the countries,” she said.
The Global Village Festival will be from noon to 6 p.m. at the Gilbert Civic Center North Campus, 50 E. Civic Center Drive. Visit http://evtnow.com/67t for more information about the event.
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