Holiday Folk Fair to offer local look at distant lands

By Jim Harris

NIU students will have an opportunity next week to explore the cultures of many different people and countries without having to pay several hundred dollars for a passport and airline ticket.

Steve Johnson, director of External Programming of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said groups from NIU have been going to “The Holiday Folk Fair” at the Mecca in Milwaukee for a number of years, but have never gone for more than one day.

When NIU makes its next visit, the group will be staying overnight. They are scheduled to leave DeKalb at 3 p.m. Nov. 19.

The fair is celebrating its 50th year and is produced by the International Institute of Wisconsin to promote a better understanding of other cultural and ethnic groups. Over 50 different groups from all over the world will be involved in the fair.

Upon arrival in Milwaukee, the group will check into their rooms at the Hotel Wisconsin, located near the fair. Johnson said the group has reserved tickets to the opening ceremony of the festival, at 7:30 p.m.

According to Johnson, the ceremony is similar to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, with all of the represented countries parading in with the flags of their respective countries.

Saturday, participating students will have the morning to themselves. That afternoon, the various countries will be staging arena performances and dance demonstrations.

Cooking demonstrations will take place in an area of the fair known as the International Cafe, where participants will have the opportunity to sample the food of the various cultures.

In addition, the International Marketplace, featuring arts and crafts from countries around the world, will be operating. A beer garden, with German bands performing, will be open as well.

Finally, at 7 p.m. Saturday night, the group will leave, and arrive back at DeKalb by 9 p.m.

Johnson said anyone interested in exploring different cultures and learning about the heritages of different countries might want to attend. The program is sponsored by the NIU Southeast Asian Studies Center, and is part of the “TraveLearn” program.

This program involves various educational trips, each sponsored by a different department in the university. The Folk Fair trip is unlike other TraveLearn programs, Johnson said, because there is not a two-hour lecture before the trip, and nothing is being studied.

Future trips will include visits to one of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes in Springfield, a trip to the Quad Cities Bald Eagle Days in Rock Island, and a trip to a performance of a Shakespeare play.

The cost for attending the Folk Fair is $89 for non-NIU students, and $49 for full-time students. This includes transportation, admission, and lodging. To register by phone for the trip, call 753-0277 or stop by Adams Hall 133.