Bemidji State University celebrated the different backgrounds of all their students with the 49th annual Festival of Nations. The Beaux Arts Ballroom at BSU was packed with the song, dance and food of more than 30 different cultures Friday evening.
“The students and I met together and [thought], ‘how can we represent the diversity at BSU when we have so many students from different countries, from different cultures and from different ages?’ And we said, ‘Okay, maybe this year, the theme should be One Festival But Many Cultures,’” says Dr. Brian Xiong, the director of the Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at BSU and Northwest Technical College.
“This is a platform where they can come in and show their cultures; show their talents, food – if anything they want to represent their country,” says Jelina Basned, the president of the International Student Organization (ISO) at BSU.
ISO has been working on the festival for the past month, encouraging everyone at the school to show what makes them special.
“We had a flag show where all the countries of the students were represented, and then we are doing songs from different countries, dances and also, we have food which represents different countries,” says Basned.
Another big part of the evening was the fashion and room décor.
Alisha Ghaju, the secretary for ISO, says, “We have a lot of international people wearing their cultural dresses from Malaysia, from Uzbekistan, from Pakistan.”
“This year was different because we are doing different things. Last year was our first year, so we had no idea what we were doing, but this year, we had a theme and we did little hot air balloons and big hot air balloons and we did a lot of origami, and we just wanted to make it look colorful like a party of like a festival so everybody feels welcome,” says Sarvika Shetty, the vice president of ISO.
Next year, the Festival of Nations will be celebrating 50 years. While this year’s ceremony was extremely extravagant, ISO has a few more tricks up their sleeve to celebrate half a century of BSU diversity.
“I really want it to be grand and I think we need to get more people, more cultures, more shows,” says Shetty.