Federal Way meets the world | Nandell Palmer

It was not just another ordinary day in our fair city Aug. 20. The world came together as one at the Federal Way Regional Library.

With more than 150 flags proudly hanging from the ceiling, the library was transformed into a mini United Nations. A cadre of KCLS creative librarians was instrumental in kicking off the first “Flavors of the World Cultural Fair” to a wonderful fanfare.

Exotic food, pulsating music, hip-swaying dances, and spell-binding stories were all given away for free as a way “to explore the diversity of our community.”

Donna McMillen, manager for the Federal Way libraries, was pleased with what she observed overall. She likened the festivities to a cohesive village with happy and caring people.

“It’s a beautiful sight to watch people from the community meeting and greeting each other,” she said. “Also, it was great to hear patrons saying how touched they were seeing their countries’ flags on display.”

The exulting Anna Malesa, the Teen Services librarian, could not erase the megawatt energy that lit up her face.

“I feel wonderful!” she gushed, catching her breath. “It makes me feel so happy to give myself to the community. It’s like giving my soul away to the people.”

I have always maintained that Federal Way has the diversity, but that the various cultures could do a much better job blending together. I am most delighted that KCLS is doing its part to bridge this gap.

In addressing the audience, Mayor Skip Priest extolled the city’s diversity, noting that 112 languages are spoken in Federal Way Public Schools. Diversity commissioner and city council candidate Susan Honda also addressed the attendees.

Harmit Lamba, a Sikh from North India, dressed in a baby-blue turban and khaki shorts, weaved his way from one booth to the next, gobbling up cultural factoids. The former chemical engineer turned registered nurse had lived in Federal Way from 1979 to 2003. He so missed the diversity here that he moved back last year, he said.

Several ethnic groups displayed culinary wonders. Pac Island Grill doled out Hawaiian treats like barbecued loli-loli chicken, Kalua pork, and island slaw w/honey miso. Just wondering, did somebody forget to bring the lau-lau?

Hee Jung Lee, a most respected woman in the Korean community, wore many hats. As president for the Korean American Parent Association (KAPA), she supervises volunteer high school tutors at the library’s Study Zone. While some of her students were glibly explaining the nuanced flavors found in honey-pear citron tea, kalbi and kimchi, Lee was educating the public on the traditions, pastimes and exquisite couture of Korea.

El Salvador proved that it couldn’t be tamed. The commanding sound of the teponahoaste — a drum made from hollowed tree trunk that was once forbidden by Spain — drew a horde of curious onlookers, especially children, who jostled to beat it.

Video clips of live people set ablaze had re-enacted the Caldera Mountain volcanic eruption, which wiped out a large section of a village in the 1700s.

In the jungle, the quiet jungle, the lions sleep. Oh, well, there was no such luck. The Chinese lion dancers, in the form of two large beasts, roared and snaked their way through the labyrinthine aisles, with followers in tow.

Other highlights for the gathering included Colombian folk dancers doing the hottest dance craze, Cumbia. The Ukrainian choir, Serpanok, was fantastic in its classical renditions.

Story times were given in Japanese, Spanish, Russian, Korean and English. Meanwhile, a Faberge egg decorating demo went on throughout the day.

One of the event coordinators told me that the fair would not have been possible without their sponsors: KCLS Foundation, Costco, Starbucks and Friends of Federal Way Library. Nevertheless, the lion’s share of the praises goes to Winco Foods for giving over and above to this worthy cause, she said.

Thomas Jefferson High School’s student volunteers Ryan Lee and Tania Colmenares are to be commended for the hours of videotaping and photography.

Heartfelt thanks to all the people who crafted and executed this cultural kaleidoscope. I am a more enlightened man for having witnessed your handiwork. A legacy has begun!


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