Folk Fair is a great learning experience

Renee Rosenow

Every year about 3,500 people come to the Folk Fair. According to the Center for International Students Web site, this is the largest international festival in Eau Claire. The event will take place this Sunday and as an international student from Bolivia, I highly recommend you come and learn.

International students and organizations spend a lot of time preparing for this event. This year it will be my fourth time participating. In the three years I’ve participated, the phrase I’ve heard the most from kids, students and sometimes parents is, “Can I get a stamp?”

This is because every year at the Folk Fair visitors get a passport. Every country and organization has a stamp and for every seven stamps you get, you are given a ticket for a prize drawing. The more countries you visit, the better your chances to win a prize.

But what is this prize worth if you haven’t learned anything from attending the fair?

Folk Fair is about sharing each other’s cultures and the idea of the passport was made so visitors could enter every country and learn something about the country and its culture. The point was not so people can fill those passports up and hopefully get a prize in return.

I don’t think students and organizations spend roughly six hours fixing a room, making signs explaining the history of the country or printing pictures so visitors can just get an idea of what the country looks like. Cooking for the event also takes many hours. Then, another four hours on the day of the event is spent standing around trying to share cultures just to get a person asking for a stamp and not asking about the country’s culture.

That’s why students spend a lot of time trying to figure out games for kids to learn without getting bored. There is live music so you can appreciate other sounds.

I have met people who are genuinely interested in learning. I have seen parents telling their children not to ask for a stamp, but ask about a culture. I know in our booth, whenever someone would come and ask for a stamp, we would ask them a question about our country. Sometimes they would ask us where they could find that information, and they would come back with the answer. At that point I would feel that at least now that person knows a little bit more about Bolivia.

But other times people would just leave not even bothering to look up the information, as if it’s our job to just stamp their passports. This event needs to go both directions. I will give you a stamp, but I will also ask you if you’ve learned something, and hopefully that information will stick in your mind.

People also need to see Folk Fair as more than a big restaurant that has food from around the world. The Davies Center, where Folk Fair is held, is not a big exotic mall where you can buy things that might be one of a kind, handmade things. Folk Fair is an opportunity for the community to learn.

People need to go to Folk Fair to understand other cultures. They need to ask questions to break their misconceptions and they need to really be interested in our answers.

I like professors who give extra credit to students if they attend. It’s an incentive to go, but students who go just so they can increase their grades might be surprised as to how many things they can learn in one day.

Take advantage of the Folk Fair. Enjoy that you don’t have to spend money on an airplane ticket to see another culture or try their food. Take advantage of the fact that Eau Claire has a lot of international students who are willing to put this event together and are eager to answer questions and share their
cultures.

When you come to Folk Fair this Sunday, come with an open mind. Try the foods that you normally wouldn’t. Come and break the stereotype that says college students don’t know anything about other cultures. Be willing to break the stereotype that says Americans only care about America and not other countries.

Lozana is a senior print journalism major and sports editor for The Spectator.