In April of 2013, I made the decision to take over the organizing of the Concord Multicultural Festival. The Festival was a beloved community event but the organizers were stepping down. I had never attended the festival, but being an experienced community event organizer, I figured that with the right team, I could do it. In September 2013, the 8th annual Concord Multicultural Festival took place, and my life changed forever. The Festival began at 2pm, and leading up to that point, I was focused on the event details and logistics - are the tables in place? Did the DJ show up? What about the food vendors? Typical event manager stuff. Just shortly after 2pm, I stopped for a moment, took a breath and looked around. It was a beautiful sight: the music was playing, there were hundreds of people there, and everything was perfect. The Concord community was there to celebrate the beautiful diversity of our community, and that was what mattered.
The Festival began many years ago when Concord was seeing an influx of refugees. It was created as a way to introduce the cultures of our newest community members, and for the community to welcome their new neighbors. Over the years, the Festival has steadily grown in popularity and in size. From momos and samosas prepared in a tiny commercial kitchen at a church to a full blown production of ethnic foods prepared at the NH Food Bank’s beautiful, state of the art kitchen. From using the City’s bandstand as a stage - which took a whole sub-committee to coordinate! - to using a real stage that is big enough for beautiful, elaborate performances. Hundreds of attendees turned to thousands as the Concord Multicultural Festival became one of the City’s most anticipated events, drawing people from all over the region.
This year, I am proud to announce the addition of Festival Co-Chairs: Ghana Sharma and Sindy Chown. Ghana has been helping with the Festival since before I started, and Sindy has been performing - first zumba, then traditional Colombian dances - since my first year. Their talents, leadership, and dedication to the mission have been instrumental in the success of the Festival and the spectacular event that it is today, and I am so pleased to have them by my side.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also share my deep gratitude for the whole planning committee. They are an incredible group of people with brilliant ideas and passion for the mission. Like I said when I first decided to take over the organizing: “with the right team, I could do it.” Well, I never could have done it without this team, and in hindsight I would correct my statement to say “with the right team, WE can do it.”
The Concord Multicultural Festival is truly a community event and couldn't happen without the many volunteers, community members, organizations, and businesses who come together to connect the many moving parts.
After a tumultuous 2020, we are eager to bring back the Concord Multicultural Festival, for the first time with a theme: This is US. The theme emphasizes the fact that each of us is a unique and beautiful thread, woven together creating a vibrant social fabric that makes our community so special. During that first year, I learned that the Concord Multicultural Festival is so much more than an event. It is a statement of welcoming and inclusion to every community member who calls New Hampshire “home” - newcomers who have endured unimaginable journeys to get here, people who immigrated from around the world, community members who have always lived here, though their ancestors may have come from different lands, and of course the peoples whose land this was first. And it is a celebration of and for all of us.
So, friends, I look forward to seeing you all on September 19, from 11am-4pm at Keach Park. And shortly after 11am, when I take my moment to stop, breathe, take it all in, and experience the extraordinary sight of the Concord, New Hampshire community, I will say to myself, “This is US.”
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