Celebrate commUNITY

An Event Review by Larry P. Madden

Some places claim to celebrate diversity, but in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin it is more than a claim—it’s an annual event. This year marked the10th anniversary of the Celebrate commUNITY event and I was again thrilled to be a part of it. Pride in one’s ethnicity was displayed through both flags from all around the world and costumes and regalia of every style. The Brothertown Indians of Wisconsin led the procession of nations to the fine sounds of Gee Tah Saa Mohican Drum of the Williams Family, which is led by Sha daa gWaa Ne man nauu, Gordon Williams of Bowler.flag presentation

The spokesperson for the Brothertown and all Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, Ms. Jessica Ryan, then welcomed everyone to the festival. This spirit of hospitality was extended by other officials, such as Fond du Lac county executive Allen Buechel and Fond du Lac City Manager Joe Moore. Moreover, the events draw booths that represent all parts of the world, displaying ethnic crafts, literature, and fine tastes from Poland to China and back. The Brothertown booth featured a spring tonic favorite of mine, cedar tea, among other delicacies. The willingness to share by the participants and visitors makes this event something special.

The Indian dancers and drums opened the performances with an explanation of the styles and forms for the uninitiated. Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Williams led the dancers who coaxed the crowd to participate in the dances, with the two-step as the finale. Then the show kept rolling with the colorful and exotic Aztec dance troupe. From there, styles of dance from Europe to the South Sea Islands graced the dance floor and the stage, and the dances were just as varied as the cuisine we all could dine upon.

United for Diversity, a small organization of devoted people, put on a wonderful display of community: people interacting and enjoying the day. Tracy Abler stated, “There are multiple factors that make up diversity, it is more than skin color and language. It’s in ways that people don’t always think, like age and income levels, too.” Alber, who has been a driving force in the organization which draws an average crowd of 900 to 1000 people, felt that in the not-too-distant future, an even larger venue might be needed.

Anyone who would like to expand their horizons and have a hospitable and friendly outing with their family should mark this event on their calendar. It offers a chance to experience food, friendship, and the art of “visiting”—a sadly disappearing form of communication. Attending Celebrate commUNITY is the kind of event that reminds us all that despite our demographic make-ups, we aren’t so different after all.

Larry P. Madden (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Wisconsin) was born and raised in the Sturgeon Bay area. A recent graduate of CMN, he enjoys the Powwow trail and strives to maintain balance on the red road.