The 27th annual Festival of India, held on Saturday Oct. 11 at Stevens Point Area High School, offered community members the opportunity to experience aspects of the Indian culture without leaving central Wisconsin. When entering the festival doors, attendees were serenaded by live sitar, guitar and vocal performances.
“The music sets the mood as you walk through the door,” said volunteer Nicole Tewinkl. “It’s as if you are in India.”
Several organizations put the festival together, including volunteers. One major locally active group that helped put the festival together is SHAMA Inc., a nonprofit organization that works to empower Indian women and their families, regardless of backgrounds.
The University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point’s South Asia Society also puts a lot of work into the festival.
“There is a combination of music and dance at the festival,” Secretary of South Asia Society Apoorva Sarmal said. “We have Bollywood dancing, Kirtan and a Tabla and Harmonium performance by Dr. Dilip Tannan, Shreekant Shah and Karan Pal Cheema. We also have Indian classical and folk dances.”
Community members had the opportunity to learn the different styles of dance. Vicki Kurasz, a festival dancer, led a class on Bhangra dance, something she has developed a passion for over the years.
“I started at home learning from videos,” Kurasz said.”I also took local belly dancing classes. I met people there and we developed our own troupe, Tarantism and started performing. We have been together for three years.”
The dance Kurasz taught was performed on stage later that evening, along with several others including a Bollywood style dance performed by SHAMA dancers.
People from a variety of backgrounds attended the festival, participated in, and volunteered at this event. These levels of involvement showcased the community’s effort to become more accepting and welcoming of different cultures.
“Diversity affects us in ways we can’t even imagine,” Sarmal said. “We can either choose to ignore it or accept it graciously. Accepting it is the harder, but rewarding way.”
Community members and UWSP students raved about the event, expressing interest in having the festival continue in the future.