NORWALK, Conn. — Chinese dancers mingled with their counterparts from different cultures recently in Oyster Shell Park, be they Native American or exhibiting moves from Japan, Hawaii, Argentina or India.
The sixth annual NICE (Norwalk International Cultural Exchange) festival drew thousands, organizer Janet Evelyn estimated.
“We thought we had an exceptional mix of cultures represented at the festival. And these folk and traditional artists are highly skilled in their art forms. And we take pride in, in bringing these groups for our community to enjoy,” she said.
Evelyn approached the City in 2014 with the idea to combine the many siloed cultural festivals and combining them into one event celebrating the rich global heritage and culture of which Norwalkers are so proud, according to the NICE website.
“The NICE festival is specifically designed and focus on showcasing our global and cultural heritage. And Norwalk is a perfect place to do that and to demonstrate that, because of the way Norwalk was developed as a as the working-class community that welcomes many of these different groups in the first place,” Evelyn said. “The very attributes that that made Norwalk not so appealing in the years past has now become its strongest attribute.”
The all-day event was held July 9. Yes, it was hot but a breeze “helped a lot” and NICE organizers provided two big tents on the park’s great lawn and one at the Child of the World stage, she said.
Costs went up this year as much as 30%, and NICE asked visitors for donations as they entered the free festival, as NICE isn’t supported by a foundation or corporation, she said.
Evelyn thanks the City’s “very supportive” Recreation and Parks Department for making the event possible and said grants from Walmart, Pepsico and Modelo were a major help. Smaller donations “added up,” the Maritime Aquarium was also supportive and South Norwalk Electric and Water (SNEW) deserves a “big shout out” for assisting in erecting banners that drew additional fundraising success.
‘All of those little efforts add up to making the festival whole,” Evelyn said. “So we’re very grateful to all of the people that support this program and, and want to see this program continue to thrive.”
Photo at top by Richard Bonenfant.
Video by John Levin.