LYNNWOOD — The unique, annual Multi-Cultural Fair all started with a little chat.
Pam Graham, the program coordinator for the South Snohomish County Family Support Center in Lynnwood was having a conversation four years ago with a woman of Japanese American decent.
“This woman and her husband had started a parenting group that met in their home to share their trials and tribulations in being a biracial family and how it impacted the raising of their children,” Graham said.
Over time this group outgrew the couple’s home and began looking for a more convenient meeting location. They found it at the Family Support Center at 6330 195th St. SW in Lynnwood.
“It was so beneficial to them that they wanted to offer this support to other families,” Graham said.
So, three months later, with no budget, and the generosity of the New Cedar Valley Community School principal to use the gym, the FSC hosted 450 participants in a free family-centered event that involved storytellers, interactive booths, arts and crafts, and entertainment that consisted of local ethnic performances.
The goal, Graham said, has always been “to celebrate the richness of our diverse community and build connections between citizens, families and organizations of South County through stories, customs, dances, arts and crafts and foods from different cultures.”
The following year Edmonds Community College and the city of Lynnwood, Community Mobilization &Lynnwood Diversity Task Force partnered with FSC. Free samples of a variety of ethnic foods prepared by EdCC culinary arts was added.
“For the next two years we hosted over 1,000 folks at each event,” she said.
Then, late last year, the non-profit organization approached the Lynnwood Convention Center to host the multicultural fair as its opening. Officials there thought it would be a great connection with the community and set the date for the free, open-to-the-public event for tomorrow, Saturday, April 30.
According to Graham, volunteers from the community, most of them being individuals and families who want to share information about their culture, will be setting up booths at the fair and display artifacts and resources about their native country and culture.
“Many are very personal displays. Some are more historical. Part of the uniqueness is that many of these exhibitors are not professional and do not belong to ‘associations’ but rather are individuals like you and me who are proud of their heritage and want to share it with others,” she said.
Other exhibitors include agencies that promote cultural competency or provide services to culturally diverse populations, immigrants and refugees, as well as local government agencies and event planning partners.
Entertainers and artists have also volunteered their time and talents to inform, entertain and educate the community through song and dance, storytelling, African quilting, Chinese calligraphy and kite making from Grenada.
Not to mention the ethnic food demonstrations, which will be held every 30 minutes and include free samples, recipe cards and suggestions on how to serve the food. There will also be an art show consisting of pieces of art selected from each school in the Edmonds School District representing “building bridges between people,” she said.
And it’s all free and open to the South County community from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 30.