International Festival declared a success
Wednesday Wine performs during the Northland International Community Festival Saturday, Aug. 25. Buy This Photo
It was a rousing success, in any of a dozen different languages.
The inaugural Northland Community International Festival last weekend came off, if not entirely without a hitch, then with enough goodwill spread around to ensure the event will qualify for the title "annual" next summer.
"Definitely," said Joyce Bourgault, chairwoman of the Northland Alliance and principle organizer of the two-day festival intended to celebrate the neighborhood's growing diversity.
Oh, it was pretty darn hot, so not as many people attended as Bourgault would have liked, and the winds meant no one got to ride in a hot-air balloon, but in general, things went swimmingly.
"I think it was fantastic," Bourgault said on Monday, Aug. 27. "For our first year, everything went smoothly and we had a good amount of vendors. The heat kind of shied people away a little bit, but we survived the heat ... and we had no major problems of any kind, a lot of positive feedback.
"We're just all really pleased with the process."
The festival grew out of a series of meetings convened under the banner of the Northland Alliance for nonprofit organizations that serve the area. It kicked off with a short parade in front of the Ohio Department of Taxation headquarters at Northland Village off Morse Road. Members of Boy Scout Troop 312 and Cub Scout Pack 226 carried the flags of 50 nations, while the marching bands from Beechwold and St. Francis DeSales high schools provided musical accompaniment.
The Rev. Kwesi Gyimah of the Columbus African Seventh-Day Adventist Church smiled broadly as he watched the parade go past.
"It just shows how vibrant the community's becoming, and how diverse," he said. "I think this is just the beginning of greater things happening in Northland."
"This is a wonderful start to what's sure to be a growing tradition," master of ceremonies Kent D. Stuckey, chairman of the board for Vaud-Villities Productions Inc., said during a brief opening gathering. "We should be very proud of the incredible progress made in the redevelopment of Northland and this Morse Road corridor.
"This is tremendous momentum we have for Northland."
The festival was dedicated to 29 families, many of them immigrants and refugees from Nepal and Somali, who lost their homes when a fire devastated the Summit Park Apartments on Aug. 20, according to Stuckey.
Donations to aid the families were accepted during both days of the event.
"Wow, what a great event!" enthused Northland Community Council president Emmanuel V. Remy. "Joyce came up with the idea and just really ran with it."
The gathering of food vendors and entertainers from dozens of different countries was emblematic of the melting pot from which America originated, according to Remy, who added that there was something symbolic for the Northland area about the festival taking place at the site of the single largest mall redevelopment project in the country, with more than $100 million invested in the area.
"We have so many things to celebrate," Remy added.
"The greatness of America is in its people and the greatness of the people is in their diversity," state Rep. John Patrick Carney (D-Columbus) told the crowd.
"Neighborhoods make our city, so building a strong Northland makes sure we have a strong Columbus," Columbus City Councilwoman Michelle M. Mills said during her remarks.
"This community is one of the finest, greatest communities in Columbus," commented her council colleague, Hearcel F. Craig.
"We are very proud to be part of this Northland community," Franklin County Commissioner John O'Grady said, noting the nearby presence of the county's Job and Family Services headquarters. "It's a great day to come out and celebrate our diversity."