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Festival adopts changes to promote awareness

BY LILY ABROMEIT | SEPTEMBER 30, 2013 5:00 AM

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Flags from around the world fluttered in the wind on the fence of Hubbard Park on Sunday, waving to students and community members at the 23rd annual University of Iowa Celebrating Cultural Diversity Festival — which kicked off Homecoming 2013.

Targeting increased attendance numbers and greater awareness for the first time since its inception, the festival adopted a new season and venue on Sunday.

“We made the move in conversation with [the Homecoming Committee] hoping that it would be beneficial to both the festival and to homecoming by bringing more people out in both cases, and possibly people who wouldn’t have gone to one or the other events,” Lindsay Jarratt, the diversity resources coordinator in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, wrote in an email.

The event, traditionally hosted in the spring in the Field House, featured several makeshift booths for merchandize from various cultures and vendors selling food from around the world. All the while the sounds of award-winning blues and funk music filled the air.

Homecoming Council officials, who will sponsor events throughout the week such as recyclable boat races and a casino night, said that adding the festival to the schedule diversified student involvement not found during Homecoming week in the past.

“We tried to expand it to student organizations and residence halls so I think this is a great way [because] there were a lot of student organizations that could come to this festival and show what they are all about,” said Executive Director of the 2013 Homecoming Council Ayat Mujais. “It brought a lot to the week as a whole.”

Members of the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students joined with the UI Student Government to aid the success of the festival as well, providing 300 free tickets to undergraduate,  graduate, and professional students.

The free tickets were gone within the first hour of becoming available.

Will Cai, the UISG diversity liaison and sponsorship director for the 2013 Homecoming Council, said he thought the free tickets would be beneficial to the festival and the student organizations.

“Because of the free tickets people make their first moves to purchase food at the event,” Cai wrote in an email. “Once they start having a good time at the festival, they are more likely to spend more money.”

UI junior Yuna Rivera said she considered the festival in its new location and time to be a success.

“People have their morale up and their sprits up because it’s Homecoming,” she said.

Apart from joining in the Homecoming festivities, the festival made individual changes this year as well, including partnering with Hancher Auditorium and adding new performers, the new location seemed to be the most noticeable to patrons at the festival.

Coralville resident Dhyana Burhan, whose husband works for the UI, said she finds the new location much more enjoyable.

“I find [it] more attractive because I like walking around in the open,” Burhan said.

UISG President Katherine Valde, a native of the Iowa City area, echoed the sentiment.

“I’d never been to [the festival] before, and now I can’t believe that I didn’t because this is so much fun and having outside on a beautiful day right before Homecoming just brings together a lot of different parties, and it’s a great atmosphere,” she said.


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