Over 800 people came out to support the International Cultural Festival held Monday at the Castlegar Community Complex. The event was a fundraiser and educational opportunity for the Castlegar Refugee Project. The group hopes to bring a refugee family to Castlegar sometime this spring.
Over 30 different groups showcased a wide variety of heritage aspects throughout the day. Dancing, calligraphy, henna tattoos, ethnic foods, origami and tea ceremonies were just some of the cultural treasures to be found.
The overwhelming response to the event was heartwarming to Castlegar Refugee Project chair Rosemary Manarin. “It has been wonderful, quite amazing,” she said. “We have had really good support. It is great to see the community coming together like this and sharing so many different cultural experiences.”
The fundraising aspect was definitely a success with about $10,000 coming in, bringing the refugee project’s finances to the point they can move to the next step in bringing a family here.
The festival turned out better than event organizer Julie Leffelaar had expected. “For me it was about the mingling around of the cultures,” she said. “I think Castlegar was ready for and needing this intercultural exchange. It has shown that Castlegar has a lot of spirit and talent.”
Leffelaar feels confident in the show of community support. “It feels like a mandate or yes from the community [for bringing in a refugee family],” she added.
Organizers are very thankful for all of the support they received as putting on the event did not cost them any money, enabling all of the funds received to go directly towards the refugees. A big part of that was thanks to RDCK Areas I and J and the Castlegar and District Recreation Commission not only providing the use of the facility but also suggesting the Family Day date, which turned out to be a perfect match for the festival.