Metallic Indonesian head wraps, teepees for sale, grilled corn on the cob and a street full of college students and alumni, families with strollers and other enthusiasts of all ages and walks of life -- it must have been Athens' annual International Street Fair.
The fair, which hit the quarter-century mark with Saturday's observance, turned out the largest-ever number of vendors and a huge crowd. Korean, Indian, German, Chinese, Israeli, Ecuadorian and African students were among the many representing their cultures, while groups included the Peace Corps, a Fair Trade student organization, the Fulbright Scholars Association and many more.
Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis welcomed the crowd. "This is always a very, very special day in Athens, Ohio," he said. "It's on a day like this that we realize we're much more the same than we are different."
He encouraged fairgoers to meet someone from another culture they didn't know and learn a little about one another. That opportunity presented itself over and over throughout the day.
For instance, the African Ensemble and Dancing group incorporated audience members into several of its dances. Wearing traditional African garb and led by a native Ghanaian, the drummers and dancers -- their bare feet darkened by the bricks and their smiles welcoming -- enticed sideliners to join them. A group performing a traditional Japanese fisherman's dance and belly dancers who called for crowd participation were among the day's other entertainers.
"We tapped into great local performers," said Krista McCallum Beatty, associate director of International Student and Faculty Services and one of the fair's organizers. "The music and dancing showcased the Ohio University and Athens international talent."
Wearing a flowing gold gown from Mali that signifies leadership, retiring Director of International Student and Faculty Services, assured the crowd that this popular Athens event will continue despite his retirement.
"It was incredibly successful thanks to the work of the many groups and individuals involved," McCallum Beatty said of this year's fair. "We look forward to International Week 2008. In fact, we've already starting to plan it!"
Here's how a few students summed up what they love about the annual observance:
"The drums, the dancing and the lemonade." -- junior Jacob Hone
"I like that there's such a big crowd. It's like Halloween, but better." -- Jessica Smith, also a junior
"It's nice to see how much diversity there is." -- sophomore Tricia Hanna
"I just like the food and getting to see performances from cultures you're not used to." -- junior Ashley Stephenson