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Multicultural Festival celebrates diversity

First annual multicultural event to bring together Sea to Sky ethnicities



Of all the places in Canada one can think of as being multi-cultural, Whistler doesn't land on the top of the list.

But the community is hoping to change that perception through the first annual Whistler Multicultural Celebration on June 27.

"There are many events in Whistler, and we celebrate many things but I don't believe we've celebrated the culture, the multi-culture of the community," said event coordinator Caterina Alberti, who also organizes Whistler's winter farmers markets.

"When we come together with all of our differences and our uniqueness, we can find commonality and so for me a big piece of this is to bring people together to see our common ground as well as our uniqueness and in that way we learn about each other, we experience amazing things that we may not have experienced before, we learn things we never knew, it just broadens our horizons and there is something beautiful about that."

The event coincides with national Multicultural Day and is sponsored by the Whistler Forum for Leadership and Dialogue, which will hold a series of public talks related to ethnic and cultural issues in the Sea to Sky corridor before, during, and after the event.

"... It's long overdue in Whistler," said Forum president William Roberts. "Basically in Whistler we are a polyglot of people and after the whole international flare of the Olympics, which was terrific, after the Games we have gone back to pretty mono-cultural activity so it's time to pull this together."

As well as a party, the Whistler Multicultural Celebration is designed to honour the contributions of various communities in the region.

The village-based celebration will see a wide variety of ethnic food sold at kiosks at the event due to solid support from the local restaurant community. Live music from a variety of backgrounds, including Venezuelan, African, Spanish and East Indian will accompany dance groups and performances from experts in Brazilian Capoeira and Tae Kwon Do.

An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people are expected to attend the open air festival, which, to honour the Canadian component, will host a street hockey game and a Quest for the Flag challenge organized by Quest University students.

Among some of the more quirky offerings will be a hair stylist known for her 60-second hairdos.

A special kids section will keep the little ones busy with origami lessons, hopscotch and storytelling in various languages.

"This corridor is a microcosm of international communities," said Roberts.

"The different peoples, cultures, backgrounds, values, experiences that people bring and live out in our corridor is truly astonishing and if there is one thing the Whistler Forum loves to do, it's thrive on diversity.

"We don't want to hear the same old people come together to talk about the same old things, we want to bring people together to hear different values, opinions, ideas, experiences and what it is to build those kind of bridges and the connections we need to build a more harmonious and richer world that is in the Canadian sense a vertical mosaic."

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada are funding Whistler Multicultural Day. Event organizers are also hoping for an additional grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage.




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