International Festival starts summer's ethnic celebrations Event organized to unify city's minority communities

June 21, 1996|By Kaana Smith | Kaana Smith,SUN STAFF

Even with overcast skies threatening to rain and the uncomfortable humidity, they came.

The hungry and the curious steadily flowed into downtown's War Memorial Plaza for Baltimore's first International Festival yesterday.

"This is a highly diverse town we got. And we need to celebrate that," said Jesse Hoskins, co-chairman of the event.

Festival organizers aimed to unify local minority communities to showcase their unique cultures, while emphasizing their similarities. The event also was the kickoff of the city's series of summer ethnic festivals.

A traditional Chinese dragon dance began the event, followed by a brief greeting from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and representatives of community ethnic groups. Their words of praise and greetings were met with applause by most, with the exception of some giggling children who seemed more interested in the sights and sounds around them than discussions of diversity.

As visitors approached the plaza, their senses were invaded by the aroma of food, the laughter of children and the bright colors adorning the vendors' stands. Downtown workers, including printer Jeff Jolliffe Sr., used their lunch breaks to wander around the plaza and mingle with the ethnic groups celebrating.

"In light of what's going on across the city and the world, it's nice to know that people can still get along," said Jolliffe, 44, a native of Baltimore. Jolliffe of Eastpoint said the event focuses on togetherness.

And everyone did come together eventually. When the thunder and rain made a brief appearance around 1 p.m., participants gathered under a large tent, where they battled mosquitoes and took refuge from the downpour.

"I'm just glad I brought my jacket," said Lasheena Washington, 8, grabbing the lapel of her pink raincoat. She and several of her classmates were on a field trip from Robert W. Coleman Elementary in Northwest Baltimore.

Pub Date: 6/21/96

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