City board considers new diversity event

2/2/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

An advisory committee that represents ethnic groups within Garden City is talking about creating an event that celebrates the community's diverse cultures.

The Cultural Relations Board, a nine-member committee that reports to the city commission about issues affecting minority populations and also sponsors cultural events that celebrate cultures in the community, is in the very early stages of discussing reviving an event similar to the Five-State Multicultural Conference that was last held in 2005 at Garden City Community College.

Michelle Stegman, the city's human resources director and CRB liaison, said during a CRB meeting Friday that the board has been talking about creating a new event that would be based around the current diversity breakfast the CRB hosts in October. She said the breakfast draws about 200 people on average to hear speakers talk about their native customs, traditions and heritage.

Larry Johnson, with the Finney County Convention and Visitors Bureau, attended his first diversity breakfast last October. The experience moved Johnson to approach the CRB in December about the possibility of creating a weekend-long festival of some sort.

Johnson said he and the CRB are in the "very preliminary" stage of generating ideas and organizing an event.

"The intent is to get community partners involved in this," Stegman said. "It's not just going to be the CRB or the CVB."

The old multicultural conference in the 1990s and early 2000s was sponsored by a variety of businesses and organizations, including the school district and the community college. According to a brochure provided by Stegman, the 2005 event featured speakers and presenters who talked about Mennonite culture, African culture and included discussions of Kansas folklore and character portrayal of Stage Coach Mary Fields, an African-American woman from the Old West era.

Initial discussions about the new event have focused on building on October's diversity breakfast. Some of the ideas have included booking local or national speakers, presenting ethnic/cultural entertainment and food "tours" of local ethnic restaurants. The event probably would start small and grow over time. In the future, it could draw people from Kansas and surrounding states, Johnson said.

"That's all down the road," he said. "Right now, I think the important thing is to get the people and cultures here interested in it so they want to participate. They can show their culture, their clothes, music, food. We can learn about each other and get excited about that."

Johnson proposed a possible framework for a two-day event that would include the diversity breakfast, a speaker, educational workshops and food options on the first day, with some kind of sports or and shopping activities on day two.

Johnson said there may be a possibility of including sports popular outside of the United States, such as cricket, rugby, futsal and soccer, though soccer has become popular in the U.S., as well.

"What would be nice is to have some kind of a demonstration," Board member Verna Weber said. "We might work that in with people from around here, because a lot of people don't understand cricket (or other world sports)."

The CRB is seeking community partners. Stegman asked that any group or organization interested in learning more should contact her at 276-1172, or michelle.stegman@gardencityks.us.

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