Travel the world, meet neighbors at Integrated Community’s World Fiesta

One of the highlights of the World Fiesta is the Mexican folkloric dance.
Courtesy photo

If you go:

What: Integrated Community's World Fiesta

When: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7

Where: Steamboat Springs Community Center, 1605 Lincoln Ave.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Whether it’s your first trip abroad or a quick visit back to your homeland, Friday’s World Fiesta offers a night of circumnavigating the globe without having to step outside Steamboat Springs city limits.

The sixth annual World Fiesta, hosted by Integrated Community, or Comunidad Integrada, takes place Friday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

There’ll be food — Cuban, Moroccan, Greek, Thai, Mexican, to name a few, donated by local restaurants and individuals. There will be dancing — a traditional Mexican folkloric set and a Hawaiian hula dance. And there will be family-friendly activities and games, and the entry to the party is a suggested donation of $10 per guest or $5 per child.

“Obviously, it’s a fundraiser,” said Millie Beall, an Integrated Community board member, “but that’s secondary. We hope to raise funds, but more so, we want to raise awareness and just have fun.”

The Steamboat area is home to people from about 40 countries, according to Integrated Community Executive Director Sheila Henderson.

“We’re becoming more and more diverse, every year, which is wonderful,” Henderson said. “We know the immigrant community has grown dramatically since 2010 (the year of the last census). We see it especially in the schools. The ELL (English language learners) classes now have kids who speak languages other than Spanish.”

Integrated Community has been operating since 2004 with the mission to promote successful integration of immigrants in the region and create a healthier and more united community. The organization offers education services ranging from early childhood to tutoring to citizenship exam prep as well as resource and referral immigration services and interpretation and translation services.

While the range of food, fun and good vibes are long-standing traditions of the World Fiesta, there’s a brand new piece this year.

Traditional Mexican folkloric skirts to outfit the dancers in the Latin dance have been borrowed in past years for the occasion, but this year, they were handmade in Mexico.

“It’s very important to have (the folkloric skirts), because that’s what makes the dance so beautiful and colorful. You use the skirts the whole time you’re dancing,” said Irene Avitia, Integrated Community’s early childhood education specialist who also coordinated the dance.

Getting the skirts was no small feat.

The 15 dresses were handmade by a woman in Parral, Chihuahua, and then someone else transported them from Parral to Juarez, Chihuahua. A third person brought the skirts across the border to a UPS store to ship them to Steamboat.

Efforts to get the skirts to Steamboat were logistical, paperwork heavy and so frustrating that at one point Avitia wondered if it would be simpler to drive down to the U.S.-Mexico border herself rather than deal with shipping. Avitia credits the successful delivery to Alan Rios, a client and interpreter-in-training for Integrated Community who took charge on the coordination efforts as well as his family.

“We are now able to participate in other events and teach our culture to our children,” Avitia said. “We’re going to have the skirts for a long time.”

And for the dance for which the skirts will be worn?

“Some of the girls have never been exposed to Mexican folkloric dance before, so it’s challenging, but they’re all having fun,” Avitia said. “The dance is something new from their parents’ culture. (The children) do speak the language at home, but they’ve never been able to see or be part of a traditional dance.”

It will be a night of fun and new experiences for all.

“In this climate, in the U.S., maybe we can have a little bit more of a sense of happiness that can come out of attending a party like this,” Beall said. “Rather than being afraid of cultural differences, maybe they’ll embrace the cultural differences.”

“We want people to integrate, to get to know other people, to have fun, to embrace our backgrounds,” said Avitia. “We all live in the same community; let’s forget about stereotypes and just enjoy.”

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