International Festival brings together families from 17 different countries

MONROE, CT — The PTOs of the town’s three elementary schools got together to celebrate the Monroe’s diverse community with the 2nd Annual International Festival in the Masuk High School cafeteria on Friday, Feb. 23.

Families put together a beautiful and colorful exhibit showcasing 17 different countries. Michele Lopez, one of the organizers and part of the Guatemala booth crew, thanked all who participated and made this event possible.

“Thank you for the enthusiasm, decorations, food, and dedication you brought to this event — whether it was your second time participating or new to the group, it would never have happened without you,” she said.

Booth families shared their costumes and customs, games, sports, history and, most memorable of all, the culinary dishes of their cultures.

Among the food options were Brazilian cheese balls, passion fruit mousse and chocolate truffles known as “brigadeiros”; Belarus pancakes, Guatemalan shrimp ceviche, Venezuelan “tequeños” and flan, homemade Vietnamese egg rolls with sauce; Mexican bread, snacks, candy, traditional hot chocolate, esquites, chicken taquitos and a colorful gelatin; Peruvian corn, soda and sweet treats; Cuban rice and beans, Colombian empanadas, arepas, pan de queso, pan de bono, almojabanas, soda, snacks and coffee candy; and Indian mango lassi.

Lopez said she did not have a chance to visit all the booths, but “I can say the mini egg rolls from Vietnam, the homemade fruit punch and honey bread from Ukraine, the goulash from Hungary, the flautas from Mexico, corn with habas (lima beans) from Peru, tostadas, ceviche and horchata from Guatemala, and so so so much more were amazing!”

In the back room, volunteers created intricate henna tattoos on children’s hands. Many adults joined in the fun and got tattoos as well.

Kids and adults had fun dancing Zumba with Jackie (@zumba_with_jackie_) and Bollywood with Masuk and Jockey Hollow volunteers.

The kids were motivated to learn interesting facts about all countries and participate in a fun trivia game throughout the night.

Children got henna tattoos.

“My son was excited to learn that a new species of animal was discovered in Peru last year,” Lopez said. “I had a great conversation about traveling the world with a Venezuelan grandfather visiting Monroe!”

She also praised the enthusiastic Bollywood dancing and Zumba with Jackie. “And the games were definitely a great addition,” Lopez said.

Lopez was referring to the Cambodian Jump rope and Chinese hackey sack Jianzi introduced by Sopoline Teng, chair of the International Festival Committee.

“The kids were so fascinated and competitive during that game,” Teng said.

To top off the fun, there was a dress up station where they could try on outfits from different countries and pose for pictures wearing props like fans, hats, and umbrellas.

Superintendent Joseph Kobza came to the event with Fawn Hollow Elementary School Principal Leigh Metcalf Ances. This is the only event where all three elementary schools, which also include Monroe and Stepney, in town come together.

Organizers said they were pleased with the results and are already looking forward to next year. “I hope you will join us again next year and perhaps we can find new ways to use our diversity to bring us together again sooner,” Lopez said.

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