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Whistler's Main Street transforms into mini international expo

Intercultural festival showcases diversity on a shoestring budget



It was the "miracle on Main Street" last year when thousands showed up for Whistler's first multicultural festival; now it's the "magic on Main Street."

Organizer William Roberts looked around in quiet satisfaction as thousands braved Thursday's rain to sample a taste of food from around the world and learn more about the cultural diversity that's alive and well in the resort municipality.

"I don't know whether to call it a miracle on Main Street or magic on Main Street! Closing down a street and... (seeing) people walking around and having food and having fun, dancing and entertaining, it's just a really wonderful thing," he said.

This year the event was re-branded as the Intercultural Festival, all done on a shoestring budget.

A section on Main Street was closed down to traffic as food vendors and local restaurants showcased their international flavours - Persian, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Mexican. Other booths included calligraphy, origami and knot tying.

"This is what we should be doing in Whistler, isn't it?" asked local Jason Wright. "Fun, family events... It's a good addition for people coming to Whistler to have a unique experience."

Gathered with her fellow Filipino dancers, dressed in a traditional costume, Regine Cervantes could barely contain her happiness at the chance to showcase her culture.

She took to the street as part of a series of traditional Filipino dances.

"It was a really nice experience for people to see our culture," said Cervantes who has lived in Whistler for the past three years.

"If you say 'show me Canadian culture' this would be it!"

Though the Filipino community had a strong presence at the festival, other cultures from around the world were also on display.

Aki Mikami, from Japan, was at a booth doing Japanese style calligraphy.

As she painted broad black brush strokes on white paper, Mikami, who has lived in Whistler for five years, said the festival is "an awesome experience."

Roberts managed to pull it off on a shoestring budget - less than $20,000.

The largest portion of that - $13,400 - came from the federal government, at the last minute.

"I just feel so satisfied and thrilled," said Roberts. "Satisfied we were able to pull an event together that's successful, despite the rain. But thrilled that we continue to push the envelope on what it means to live in Canada with different cultures and different people and how to really to share that in creative new ways and that to me, is what Whistler should be about."

He's hoping to convince the municipality that it's a festival worthy of significant investment from the Festivals, Events and Animation funding in the years to come.

This year the municipality kicked in $5,000. That's up over last year but less than Roberts asked for from council.

Councillor Jack Crompton said that investment was "well worth it."

"I love all of our sports related events and festivals. They're so big," he said, taking a quick break from soccer with the kids at one end of the festival. "For me, this adds something we don't have.

"It's a wonderful event."

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