ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On Sunday, people within the local community representing countries from all over the world came together to celebrate the 51st annual Festival of Nations. The event kicked off with a parade of nations, with representatives of each nation displaying their country flags while sporting traditional garments, followed by remarks and the singing of the National Anthem by Manoj Ajmera, the chairperson for the Festival of Nations.
Throughout the rest of the day, many performances ranged from native dances to music performances. Miss Festival of Nations pageant began at 3 p.m., where girls ages 14-18 could represent their countries. India was crowned Miss Festival of Nations, and Ukraine was the runner-up. Guests could also walk around the convention center, visiting tables that boasted an array of ethnic cuisines and crafts.
“The Festival of Nations has been going for 51 years,” said Ruby Das Karn of the Albany New York Nepalese Society. “Last year was our 50th anniversary, and we wanted to do something huge, but the event was virtual, and we couldn’t do as much. So, this year, we celebrate it as the 50th.” Das Karn says the Festival of Nations is a time for everyone to showcase their cultures, a theme echoed throughout the day by speakers and attendees.
“There is nothing like this, where you have so many people coming together,” said Olivia Bruni, who has attended three festivals. Her brother participated in the festival as a member of a kung fu class, representing the nation of China. Bruni indulged in many foods, including a dessert from Ukraine. “The different foods are great! Today was my first time trying some foods like empanadas. It is also amazing to see the traditional garbs, and I wish more people knew about this event.”
“This is an opportunity to celebrate one of our greatest strengths: diversity,” said Assemblyman John McDonald III. “It is wonderful to be able to celebrate diversity with the foods and festivities. There is a greater appreciation for all cultures. I see good in all of this opportunity to showcase that.”
“I think it is important for us to remember that we have always been a city of immigrants,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “Diversity is our strength. To see all the different groups come together and share their cultures and be able to pass it on to the young ones is inspirational. This is one of the strengths of our country. To cherish your heritage and be a part of this incredible democracy we have here in the United States.”
“The festival was a success,” said Ajmera. “There were more people than we expected, and everyone was having a good time. I estimate that there were around 2,000 people at the event today.” He was pleased to see a lot of interest in the various ethnic cuisines. “When I came out around 4 p.m., every food booth was almost out of food, which is great news. Whatever amount the country makes is their own, so the tables are full of volunteers raising money.”
Planning for the next festival will not begin until next year, but Ajmera is hopeful for the future. “We have been doing this festival for many years, and the main thing is that everyone can work in unison for so long. There are many different groups and cultures, but the beauty is, after all the decisions are made, everyone gets behind them and makes it work.”