INNISFAIL – It was more than three years ago when Tasha Busch experienced an anti-racism rally in town.
She came to know firsthand the divisiveness then and later throughout the COVID pandemic.
However, three and half years later Busch stands tall as a member of the Innisfail Welcoming & Inclusive Community Committee (IWICC), and as an equally proud co-organizer of the inaugural Innisfail Multicultural Festival hosted by IWICC from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 14 at the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre.
“Having all these different cultures from different towns around Central Alberta, and not just Innisfail, is great to see; the camaraderie, the excitement, and the curiosity,” said Busch. “We still need awareness, and we still need education and being exposed to it.
“Seeing kids learning as you're going along to the different booths; asking questions about the different countries, it's just so important to have exposure to it,” added Busch. “The world is going through a lot of hurt, and I think having some fun and excitement, whether it's music, food, games, and crafts, it really brings the community together.”
The festival opened with a prayer and song from respected regional indigenous elder John Sinclair.
“No matter where we come from in this world we're all the same. In the Creator’s eyes we are all the same, and he loves us all,” Sinclair told his audience. “To understand that we welcome everybody. This is a multicultural country.”
The common area between the Innisfail Public Library and the Community Room was the main setting for the festival where representatives from 14 countries and organizations set up colourful educational booths.
These included exhibits, games and good from such countries as Armenia, Mexico, and Ukraine, and organizations as the Red Deer-based African Caribbean Centre of Central Alberta and Innisfail’s Phil-Can Neighbourhood Association.
Throughout the afternoon in the Community Room there was dance and music entertainment, including traditional Cameroon, Philippine, Indigenous and Indian performances.
There was also a free buffet meal offered by the Phil-Can Neighbourhood Association Caterers, Great Wall Restaurant, Persian House Restaurant and The Zoo at the Innisfail Hotel.
Innisfail mayor Jean Barclay told citizens during the festival’s opening she recently heard a keynote speaker in Calgary named Cormac Russell, whose book, The Connected Community, is based on the connection in the place people live and the “incredible gifts” community citizens have to offer from lived experiences.
“I am so proud of all the connectors in this community who volunteer their time and efforts to host events like this,” said Barclay. “I can assure you this festival today would fit beautifully as a chapter in the book.”