Northland News

International Festival focus was more on children this year

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Welcome to the United States.

Two little boys, refugees from Bhutan by way of Nepal, are probably in for something of a disappointment when they realize an event as exciting and new to them as the Northland International Community Festival and Health Fair doesn't happen every Saturday.

Only in this country for three days, the lads were accompanied to last weekend's celebration of diversity and promotion of healthy activities by an older sister, their father and their grandfather, according to Sandy LaFollette, chief organizer of the event.

The gathering in and around the Northland Performing Arts Center on Tamarack Boulevard was the second annual international festival, but this time around, it was combined with the health fair. That event, sponsored by the North Side Health Advisory Committee, had been held at the North YMCA in conjunction with a fundraising sale of books, CDs and DVDs.

Linking the two events, committee co-chairman Scott Dowling said as he helped festival visitors find parking spaces, came about through "sort of an organic progression."

"It just seemed obvious," Dowling added.

The health fair, held inside the center, offered assessments, information and testing.

Having all the health-related activities in one location was an improvement over sprinkling them in among tables of used books and videos, according to the Rev. Kwesi Gyimah, of the Columbus African Seventh-Day Adventist Church. His congregation supports a health ministry and has participated in all the past health fairs.

More than 100 children, from Russia, Nepal, East Africa, Central Africa and other points around the globe and closer to central Ohio participated in a coloring contest, LaFollette said.

This year's international festival, held nearly two months earlier than the inaugural event, had a greatly expanded area for children's activities, including an inflatable "bounce house."

The sound of laughter from inside the thing was proof that children know no language barriers when they're having fun.

"I think the bounce house is going to be the big draw," LaFollette said, looking on as children speaking Spanish and English jumped about.

Games and prizes for children participating in the coloring contest were provided courtesy of a grant from Molina Healthcare.

Entertainment took place throughout the one-day event, carved down from last year's Saturday and Sunday gathering, on the stage inside the Northland Performing Arts Center.

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