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Celebrate the worlds of Whistler

The fourth annual Whistler Multicultural Festival takes place Friday, June 10

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The wide wealth of Whistler's cultural life will be on show at the fourth annual Whistler Multicultural Festival on Friday, June 10.

"Whistler is very multicultural; we have so many people here from different parts of the world. People ask me what Canadian culture is and I find it hard to describe it, but I always think multicultural first and foremost," says organizer Karoline Madsen.

The festival is sponsored in a partnership between the Whistler Multicultural Network, the Whistler Public Library and the Whistler Museum. The network provides support and information to foreign newcomers settling here. This includes language lessons, settlement services and advice, and a multicultural community kitchen program.

"We have come to know so many people through our programs. They are really talented and have so many skills. It's interesting and the festival gives everyone a chance to see them," Madsen says.

Immigrants and temporary visitors and workers have shaped Whistler's progress, and Madsen says this is an opportunity to enjoy the cultural and arts side of their lives.

The festival runs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the library, located on Main Street, and at Florence Petersen Park next door.

"The festival is the biggest thing we do, and the most fun," Madsen says.

She estimates dozens of nationalities make Whistler their home.

"It's rare to meet someone who was actually born here," she says.

"We've been slowly but surely connecting with all these people. We're still fairly new and it takes time to create a bigger presence. It's interesting to talk to different organizations and people in the community — they don't realize we exist and offer all these services.

"A lot of people find us through our English as a second language (ESL) classes. They get into other programs, volunteer with us or help at the festival once they know we're there."

Activities are free and open to families and participants of all ages. It includes music, crafts, workshops, food, performances, arts, wellness and dance.

"There will be Filipino folk singers and dancers, Kendo Japanese martial arts, Bulgarian dolls, origami and mask painting for kids," Madsen says.

"A lot of time people think it is no big deal because they are so used to their cultures, but when you hear about it, you see it as interesting. It's great to showcase that."

Then there is the food.

"We're going to be serving teppanyaki (Japan), sobropia (Chile), as well as arpas (Argentina)," she says, adding other dishes originally from India, Italy, France, Australia, Thailand, Mexico and New Zealand will also be available.

All the dishes are about as authentic as you can get, having been made by festival volunteers in the community kitchen program.

For more information, visit www.whistlermulticulturalnetwork.com or on Facebook under Whistler Multicultural Festival.

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