By Hunter Drake
It all started with a map. It was a map that depicted the downtown jewel of St. Petersburg, Vinoy Park, transformed into a multicolor, multicultural tapestry. It was the 40th anniversary of the St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society festival. Although the fair is wildly popular, to me it had remained one of Tampa Bay’s best kept secrets. After experiencing the festival for the first time, it made me so very proud to live in St. Petersburg.
My first part of the day was spent helping out at the SPC Honors College booth. There I met some of the brightest young people who are a part of the Honors College Cornerstone Class. We engaged visitors in discussion about our experiences at SPC and answered any questions they had. The enthusiasm of the group was contagious! Prospective students, parents, and alumni alike all found their way to our booth. They could help themselves to an array of goodies: bracelets (reminding them how important it is to finish what they start), SPC car window clings, candy, and a myriad of information packets. There was a palpable sense of connection with our global community.
When walking from my post at the Honors College booth to my next destination, I found myself immersed in a hospitable world. Exhibitors and performers were all smiles as they demonstrated what makes each of their specific cultures great. The smiles were a multiplicative currency, traded and shared by all who came to experience or to be a part of the event. With every step the sights, sounds, and smells were a changing kaleidoscope of the senses. Two stages offered both multicultural musical and performance productions (Scottish bag pipes and sword displays, Polynesian fire dancing, Mixed martial arts, and American folk music just to name a few). Never has Vinoy Park had so much to offer per square foot.
Two days later, while standing in a line shopping, people came up to me to either comment or ask about the event. It made a very big impact! Parades and student-only days really drive the importance and fun of cultural awareness home to our youth. It speaks well of SPC that we were a perfect fit at such a diverse, robust, and exciting event. The rest of the world could take a lesson from the SPIFFS event, where cultures from around the globe can stand side by side in peace, tolerance, and pride.
Additional event photos can be found at The Honors College Facebook page.