Bahai News -- Sun-Sentinel - Weston festival offers global view

Weston festival offers global view

By Beth Feinstein-Bartl
Special Correspondent
Posted February 5 2003

WESTON After taking a hiatus last year, organizers of Around the World in Weston are bringing back the festival on Sunday at the Weston Town Center.

The event, which seeks to instill unity by promoting different cultures, had been conducted annually in the fall since 1998. But when the organizers wanted to move the festival from October to February to take advantage of cooler weather, they decided to take a break in 2002 that would allow more time to make the change, said Diane Valentini, marketing and special events manager for the Weston Town Center.

The festival, originally conducted in Tequesta Trace Park, moved in 2001 to the Town Center, at Arvida Parkway and Bonaventure Boulevard. This year's festival will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. along the center's Main Street and in the adjoining Linear Park, Valentini said.

The last festival at Town Center drew between 8,000 and 10,000 people, she said.

Around the World visitors will be able to travel the globe without ever leaving southwest Broward County, said Vernon Love, a mortgage broker who is the festival chairman.

Love, a native of Jamaica who lives in Weston, said he was motivated to get involved with the event because he wanted to see it get bigger and better.

"Because it is a community event, we are the only ones that can do it," he said.

About 17 nations will be represented in cultural exhibits. Countries will include Trinidad, Korea, Brazil, Jamaica, Peru, Germany, Spain and Colombia. American Indians also will be represented, Love said.

Representatives of some of the countries will be dressed in native costumes. Displays will cover such topics as languages, religion, art and food, Love said.

Residents, as opposed to tourist boards or professional organizations, will create the exhibits, he said.

"It's being done by the general populace, who are proud of their culture and want to share it with their neighbors," Love said.

Countries also will be represented at an international marketplace. Eight vendors are expected to be selling wares that will range from Brazilian sweets to postcards with photos taken around the world, Love said.

A storyteller will share tall tales and dancers and musicians will perform on two stages.

The entertainment has been expanded from 14 acts in 2001 to 21 soloists and groups this year, Love said.

Artists will include a dancer from Thailand, a troupe of belly dancers, folkloric groups from countries in South America, a girl who plays a Paraguayan harp, a reggae singer, a steel drum player from Trinidad and a children's dance troupe performing dances from Russia.

All of the entertainment and other activities will allow visitors to develop an appreciation for different cultures, said Brenda Powe-Williams, a Weston resident who serves on the festival's organizing committee and is co-founder of the festival.

Powe-Williams, the general sales manager for a Fort Lauderdale radio station that targets a Caribbean audience, came up with the idea for Around the World with Heather Hosseini, a dentist in Weston.

"We were discussing how Weston, at that time, was more diverse than we thought was being recognized by the overall community," Powe-Williams said. "Both of us are members of the Bahai Faith and we wanted to do something that would create a feeling of unity and oneness."

Since the first festival in 1998, Weston's population has grown more diverse. "And because of that, there's even more of a need to bring people together," Powe-Williams said.

Love is glad that the event will now be conducted in the winter.

"We're anticipating more people and better weather," he said.

Valentini agreed that February is better suited to the festival. Three years ago, the event had to be postponed because of hurricane warnings, she said.

©Copyright 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel (FL, USA)

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