LEXINGTON — The second annual United by Culture Festival was held in Kirkpatrick Memorial Park on Saturday, Sept. 9. The goal of the festival is to highlight and celebrate the cultural diversity which can be found in Lexington.
“We organize this event to help people come out of their living rooms to interact with people of a different culture,” said Gladys Godinez, Director of the Trinidad Center and organizer of the festival, “This is important because right now, our differences are being highlighted in the wider world more than what brings us together.”
Godinez said the idea for the first festival was discussed last year when the Trinidad Center and others were preparing for a possible immigration raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.) During these discussions the idea for a cultural festival for the community was born. Last year the event was attended by around 1,000 people.
Planning for the second event started four months ago, Godinez said. She spent the time contacting sponsors, writing grants, and organizing volunteers and vendors. “Thanks to all of our sponsors we were able to make this event free for everyone who wanted to attend,” she said. Sixteen community organizations sponsored the festival.
The planning committee was composed of the Trinidad Center, Center for Rural Affairs, Sixpence Program, Lexington Public Schools, Dawson Area Development, Plains Insurance Brokers, and the Lexington Clipper-Herald.
There were around 60 volunteers helping Saturday to help the event run smoothly. Godinez said a number of them were students from the University of Nebraska at Kearney who were part of multi-cultural organizations on their campus and gave their time to volunteer as part of their requirements for those organizations.
One booth was hosted by the Immigrant Legal Center. Tessa Copeland, Rural Capacity Attorney for Lexington said the Immigrant Legal Center wanted to get word out about the free services they provide to immigrants in the community.
When asked why an event like this was important, Jesus Ramirez, legal assistant for the ILC said, “Events like this shows no matter how different we are, we can still all come together.”
Copeland said this was the first year the ILC attended the festival and it was good to be visible at events like this. She added the ILC will host an open house at their new location in the Goodwill building in Lexington on Thursday, Oct. 4 from 4-6 p.m.
The Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce also hosted a booth at the event. Executive Director Sarah Neben said, “This is about celebrating everything that is great about Lexington, it helps us learn more about each other and our cultures through food and music.”
Neben said she was thankful for Godinez and her group for all the work they did to bring the event to fruition. “Events like these break down barriers,” she said.
The First United Methodist Church represented the Lexington area churches whose members got to work helping to feed and hand out t-shirts to all the volunteers at the festival. Pastor Anne Gahn of the FUMC said, “From the churches perspective, we love and serve a God of diversity, helping at events like this is us being the church.”
“All around the world all you hear of is hatred and violence,” said event volunteer Karina Lupercio, “We have something different to say, we may be small in number but we are loud.”
The family friendly atmosphere was supported by musical entertainment from the OK Sisters, the African Cultural Connection, who played traditional African drums, and Hispanic folk dances.
RockIT Event Pros provided kid’s activities which included a bungee trampoline, rock wall, trackless train and inflatable bounce houses. RockIT caters to events all across the Midwest.
Godinez said this event is annual and expects to host it next year. She also reminds the community that the United by Culture Festival is one of the places donations can be given during the Give Big Lex fundraiser which is held in November. She said donations from the previous year helped to cover the expenses of the event, which she said she was very thankful for.
A United by Culture Scholarship is also in the works, which Godinez hopes to have ready for area students.