About 1,000 people turned out for the 12th annual Fond du Lac Celebrate CommUNITY event on Saturday to learn about, honor and revel in the many cultures represented in the area.
The event is put on each year by United for Diversity, a local organization dedicated to fostering positive relations and respect between various ethnic and cultural communities in Fond du Lac. Organizer Tracy Abler said about 500 people paid to attend while another 500 provided entertainment, education and food at the 60 booths representing a variety of organizations and cultures, many of them serving samplings of delicious ethnic foods.
“I had people emailing me (afterward) what a good time they had,” she said. “An overall success.”
The day began with a procession of many national flags, as well as the flags of the State of Wisconsin, the United Nations and the international LGBTQ+ community, accompanied by a drum circle of the Brothertown Nation. Brothertown nation members presented a number of songs and dances, followed by a polka band, UW Oshkosh Japanese Taiko Drummers, Filipino Tinkling Dance, Timbukale Traditional Ghanaian Music and Dance, Tarantism Bollywood Dance Troupe and Bread of Life Choir.
“We are here because we are trying to promote incorporating Latino culture into the Fond du Lac community,” said Vicente Lezama Morales, a volunteer with Latinos Unidos de Fond du Lac. “We have a lot of barriers that prevent us from always being involved, but anytime that we’re able to get out there, we’re there to represent our Latino community in Fond du Lac.”
He said the Celebrate CommUNITY event allows the group to reach more than fellow Latinos.
“Not only do we target the Latino families that come to the event, but also let the population in Fond du Lac know that we are here, and that Latino families are present in their hometown,” he said.
“This type of event reminds us that we are part of the world,” said Garry Moise, Director of the Upward Bound Math and Science program at Marian University, who carried the flag of his native Haiti in the opening ceremony. “Just to see the sense of the community here … this is a microcosm of the world right now. It’s a great moment. It has great significance.”
“This is an all-day fun process,” said Ebony Visions President Daisy Frazier when she took a break from serving sweet potato pie, corn bread and collard greens. “It’s a great family event. You can come and spend all day here. It brings the community together. You see some of everybody here. This is a great things that United for Diversity has done. We enjoy it. We just can’t wait year after year for it. We’re so happy to be a part of it. This is what community looks like.”
The event began in response to a racist hate crime 12 years ago and has been growing ever since, just last year moving from the Recreation Center to the larger Expo Center at the Fond du Lac County Fairgrounds. Staffed by volunteers, the event offers free booth space for community groups and charges a modest fee for retailers wishing to sell their wares. Organizers even use proceeds to reimburse groups to help defray the costs of serving ethnic foods at their booths.
The event takes place on the third Saturday of February each year — so circle February 15, 2020 for the next Celebrate CommUNITY in Fond du Lac.