Culture Fest 2016: Festival Highlights Omaha’s Vibrancy


Kelly Langin

Outside the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center, the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus was still on Sunday afternoon. Even inside the lobby, only a few signs announced CultureFest 2016
But as soon as one climbed the staircase lined with colorful world flags, one could hear the low roar of chatter of the volunteers providing the exhibits, as well as the performances on the other side of the floor.

Children of all ages fixed their eyes on the performers and participated in the arts and crafts of different countries. Attending adults and parents watched educational videos and tasted the provided snacks.

Inside the exhibit room, booths lined the walls and took up space in the middle, ranging from Eastern European to Asian countries. Food tables were set up in the corners and provided guests with an array of popular snacks from other countries, like egg rolls from China and hummus and pita chips from the Middle East.

Photo Courtesy of The Gateway
Photo Courtesy of The Gateway

The Omaha Lithuanian Women’s Club provided information and an educational video about the city of Sualiai, which is Omaha’s sister city in Lithuania. Arts and crafts booths, like ink-blown cherry blossom tree art and origami from Japan, gave hands-on culture lessons to attendees.

The Capoeira Angola school in Omaha set up sign-up sheets for classes in the Benson area and gave insight to the self-defense and choreographed mechanisms of the physical art. Foreign exchange
programs encouraged adults to open their homes to children who desperately want to attend school in the U.S.

Omaha South High School and Beveridge Middle School were among the area schools that heavily participated in CultureFest 2016. Particularly, Omaha South focused on their intensive visual arts program and Beveridge set up a booth about their sign language club.

In the performance room, a woman danced to a South Indian folk song. She wore an elaborate dress of gold, purple and maroon that flowed with her movements as she sashayed to delicate strings and a quickening percussion.

The Beveridge High School Sign Language Club performed two songs for the audience, showing how sign language can interpret lyrically. One group of five performed the club hit “Bulletproof” by Sia, with Another group of three performed to “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson, taking turns with solos on verses, and coming together for the chorus.

The events for CultureFest 2016 were vibrant against the stark white and gray colors of the Community Engagement Center. People of all nationalities, some even wearing traditional clothes from their country, chatted with the volunteers and learned from their exhibits.

The event was held in a short two-hour window, and there were enough exhibits to entertain for that amount of time. Mixed with the variety of dance performances just across the hall from the exhibits, CultureFest 2016 offered an eclectic dose of the culture Omaha curates and put it into one event