UI celebrates diversity at culture festival


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Sequins and scarves — in bright blues, greens, oranges, and yellows — and golden jewelry adorned the children and young adults as the bells on their ankles complimented the traditional and Indian pop music they danced to.

The Noopur Dance Group was one of the first of nine performances at the annual UI Cultural Diversity Festival.

While the event was enjoyed by participants and attendees of all ethnicities, many student organizations used the festival to help raise money for their organizations’ future events.

The Indian Student Alliance stood out in the sea of vendors selling ethnic food and traditional clothing.

“We do it for fundraising and the experience,” group president Arun Gupta said, who was selling popular Indian snacks. “We are one of the biggest student organizations on campus, and it’s important to make a good showing.”

The Indian Student Alliance raised money to use for annual events, such as Nachte Raho and Gathe Raho — which are dancing and singing competitions, respectively — and Diwali, a fall celebration known as the “Festival of Lights.”

Many student organizations and community groups sold products and food that represented their culture, among them the Hillel Foundation. The student organization offered traditional Jewish pastries, such as hamentashen, rugelach, and challah.

“Hillel is the Jewish foundation for student life at Iowa,” Adina Hemley, the Jewish Student Life Coordinator, said. “Cultural Diversity Day is a way for us to raise funds for the orphanage we support.”

The group planned to use the money raised on an orphanage that cares for Jewish girls from tough home situations.

The Association of Latinos Moving Ahead sold horchata and duritos to support their group. Horchata is a rice milk sweetened with sugar and cinnamon, and duritos are “glorified pork rinds,” member Rosa Galindo said.

The American Indian Student Association sold fry bread and Indian tacos to raise money for a powwow the group will be sponsoring in April.

“There are a lot of dancers and arts and crafts,” member Tyrone Peterson said. “We want to help promote our culture in Iowa City.”

Vendors and performing groups were contacted as early as November to secure a spot in the Field House festivities.

“A lot of work went into planning the festival,” Jessica Strom, a cultural festival committee member, said. Strom said they had to contact groups early and learn about cash-handling procedures.

The day was filled with performances and events, such as the Noopur Dance Group, the Kojokan Dojo Samurai techniques demonstration, and a piñata break.

Dan Coglan, owner of the Kojokan Dojo, said a lot of its events have a theme, such as Renaissance fairs and martial-arts competitions. This was Kojokan Dojo’s 12th year at the diversity fair.

“Cultural Diversity Festival is a very fun venue because it is very diverse,” he said. “Every one has a different thing going.”

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