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International Street Fair celebrates global diversity, united community (PHOTOS)


“Many nations, one family.”

Hashim Pashtun, president of Ohio University’s International Student Union, chanted that phrase as town and gown came together this past weekend for an annual tradition celebrating the global diversity and collective family that is OHIO and Athens. 

Members of the Ohio University and Athens community took to the city’s streets on Saturday, April 16, for the culminating event of OHIO’s annual International Week – the International Street Fair. First celebrated in 1982, the International Street Fair is just one of many International Week events designed to engage and facilitate international awareness and diversity at Ohio University and in the community.

“We could not have a more wonderful day to bring together so many cultures and so many traditions,” Courteney Muhl, vice president-elect of OHIO’s Student Senate, said in welcoming the crowd to this year’s International Street Fair.

Throughout the afternoon, fairgoers were treated to a variety of cultural displays and interactive activities, ethnic dance and musical performances, and food from across the globe. 

“The events today simply exemplify all things global,” said Lorna Jean Edmonds, OHIO’s vice provost of global affairs and international studies. “What a way to celebrate you, Athens, our students and our community.”

Edmonds took the opportunity to thank OHIO’s International Student Union, which coordinates the event in conjunction with Ohio University and Athens city officials, as well as the community of Athens, which opens up its uptown roadways to host the event.

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson commented on the event’s location. This year’s International Street Fair was moved north up Court Street, with activities taking place from President Street to Washington Street and also on Union Street.

“I think it’s fitting that we’ve moved,” Patterson told the crowd, pointing out the number of individuals standing on Union Street. “Union is what this is all about. … Enjoy each others’ cultures, learn from each other and bear this in mind: We’re many countries around the globe, but we’re all human beings. … At the end of the day, we’re all one people.”

Patterson’s comments were echoed by Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis who kicked off his remarks with a resounding “We are the world!”

“We stand here today united as one,” President McDavis said, calling on the crowd to celebrate the spirit that is the International Street Fair. “We are a demonstration of what happens when the world comes together in a peaceful way. We are an example of what this world can be when people reach out to one another and reach across the boundaries that separate us and try to help bring us together. That’s what we’re doing in Athens. That’s what we’re doing at Ohio University.”

President McDavis then addressed the group of Ohio University international students gathered before the podium, waving the flags of their home countries.

“We are so proud of our international students, who come here seeking a great education, who come here helping to make us a better community,” he said. “You have helped us learn more about the world than we can ever put into words.”

President McDavis ended the day’s speeches by calling on the community to reunite and to talk about what can happen when the world comes together.

“Let us talk about what can happen when we focus on peace, when we focus on what is good,” he said. “Let us focus on being one, not divided. That’s who we are. We are one.”

Here are some highlights from this year’s International Street Fair:

OHIO’s international community marches in the parade of the flags, officially kicking off the 2016 International Street Fair.

OHIO’s international community marches in the parade of the flags, officially kicking off the 2016 International Street Fair. During the parade, students carry the flags of their home countries. This year’s parade featured the flags of 113 countries.

Yuto Arai, an Ohio University sophomore from Japan, writes fairgoers’ names in katakana, a Japanese writing style used primarily for words outside of the Japanese language.

Yuto Arai, an Ohio University sophomore from Japan, writes fairgoers’ names in katakana, a Japanese writing style used primarily for words outside of the Japanese language.

Hashim Pashtun, president of OHIO’s International Student Union, welcomes everyone to the International Street Fair.

Hashim Pashtun, president of OHIO’s International Student Union, welcomes everyone to the International Street Fair. Pashtun also took the opportunity to welcome a new member of the Bobcat family to the community, presenting Jason Pina, OHIO’s new vice president for student affairs, an International Week 2016 T-shirt. Pina, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at Bridgewater State University, begins his new position at OHIO on June 13.

Hasan Alghamdi, a second-year graduate student, shares bakhoor, which is similar to incense in Saudi Arabia, with attendees at the International Street Fair.

Hasan Alghamdi, a second-year graduate student, shares bakhoor, which is similar to incense in Saudi Arabia, with attendees at the International Street Fair.

Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis calls upon OHIO’s international students to wave their flags during the International Street Fair.

Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis calls upon OHIO’s international students to wave their flags during the International Street Fair.

OHIO’s international community gathers in front of the podium to hear opening remarks during the International Street Fair.

OHIO’s international community gathers in front of the podium to hear opening remarks during the International Street Fair.

Evan Lewis, vice president-elect of OHIO’s Japanese Student Association, prepares grilled corn with soy sauce and sugar at the International Street Fair.

Evan Lewis, vice president-elect of OHIO’s Japanese Student Association, prepares grilled corn with soy sauce and sugar at the International Street Fair.

One of the displays at the street fair allowed passersby to mark a map, indicating where they are from.

One of the displays at the street fair allowed passersby to mark a map, indicating where they are from.

Flags, representing the home countries of Ohio University’s international students, dot the campus’ College Green in honor of International Week.

Flags, representing the home countries of Ohio University’s international students, dot the campus’ College Green in honor of International Week.