A visitor walks through international flags at the 2004 Multicultural Fair in Medford. This year's event will be held Saturday, Sept. 20, at Hawthorne Park.

Take a cultural journey around the globe

A bigger, better Medford Multicultural Fair is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, in the city's Hawthorne Park, at Hawthorne and Jackson streets, with music, food and dancing for people of all ages. It's an annual event that aims to bridge some of the gaps between nationalities and bring people together with a focus on cultures from around the world.

Sherry Dowiot, who organizes entertainment for the event, says the fair put out information incorrectly listing the event for Sept. 27 in Alba Park. That would have been the normal time and place, she says, but it's been changed. And organizers couldn't kill all the erroneous ads.

It's the fair's 15th year. Dowiot says it will build on the past.

"But you haven't been to this one," she adds.

Last year's event drew an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people. Dowiot is hoping for a turnout as high as 10,000.

Expect nearly 30 entertainment acts on four stages, compared to last year's 23 acts on three stages. Look for Japanese Taiko drummers, Sahara belly dancers, African drumming, Balkan singers, Chinese dancers, a musician playing a traditional Chinese pipa, Mexican ballet folklorico, Japanese Bon dancers, Hula O Kawawai, European folk dancers, Japanese folk dancers, jazz musicians, gospel bands and much more. Local bands set to entertain include Pachanga, Legendsof Country, Unxion and more.

More than 60 booths are expected, manned both by vendors and not-for-profit groups.

"That's huge for us," Dowiot says.

The fair will have a separate space for the younger set with a variety of attractions for kids. A battle of the bands on the side of the park near Main Street will give local groups a chance to show their stuff. Bands signed on include The Regulators, DiMuro, Steel Monks, My Own Black Eye and Hollowboys.

Motocross demonstrations with local riders will happen at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. in the park.

"They're going to jump so high they wouldn't let us put it under the freeway," Dowiot says.

Food booths promise an array of ethnic cuisine.

"There will be maps all over the park telling people how to get where," Dowiot says. "And it's all free except for the food."

Organizers say food and fun aside, the fair's deeper intent is to build community and to help people reach across culture, language and national divides to care for one another.

That's a message that comes easy to Dowiot, a military brat who lived in Italy, France and Germany as a youngster and later lived as a foreign exchange student in Japan, a time during which she brushed up on her Japanese.

"Sadly, people hear 'multicultural' and think it's all Mexico," she says. "Hey, Mexico's great. I'd live there in a minute. But that's not all it's about. We have Japan, China, Tahiti, Egypt, Lebanon, Cuba, the Caribbean, the Sudan ... "

The event goes back to 1994, when it was organized by Oregon Fair Share and went over well enough that organizers decided to keep it going. The fair operated for a time under the aegis of the Multicultural Association of Southern Oregon.

It was run by a city commission for several years but has now been turned over to the Friends of the Multicultural Fair, a nonprofit group comprising volunteers from both previous groups and people from all over the valley.

Look for henna art, Tibetan and Indian stuff, hemp, Japanese tamari balls, ornately traditional Japanese costumes, Greek and Mexican and other cuisines and people just hanging out in the laid-back vibe. Entertainment goes on all day.

Admission to the fair is free. Call 618-1910.

Reach reporter Bill Varbleat bvarble@mailtribune.com or 776-4478.

Share This Story