Celebrate Whistler's united nations 

The resort's Multicultural Festival offers the chance to celebrate 20 per cent of residents

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - World of fun Whistler's many immigrant communities come together for an annual festival that celebrates who they are and where they come from.
  • File photo
  • World of fun Whistler's many immigrant communities come together for an annual festival that celebrates who they are and where they come from.

If Whistler is the product of its people, the annual Whistler Multicultural Festival is a fun reminder of how amazingly diverse those people are.

It is the fifth year of the event, which is put on by the Whistler Multicultural Network.

Organizer Carole Stretch says that many immigrants in Whistler work in the service sector and are often too busy to partake in everything Whistler offers to visitors.

The festival was an opportunity to celebrate their place in the resort's culture and to connect with the wider public.

"People are surprised when they find out there are immigrants here. 'Aren't they here for a year or two?' they ask. No. Twenty per cent of Whistler's population in the last census are immigrants," says Stretch.

"When you think about a fifth of the population being immigrants — permanent residents or new Canadians — that is significant."

Folklorama, a highly successful annual celebration of cultures that takes place in Winnipeg, originally inspired the Whistler Multicultural Festival.

Awareness of the festival was slow to grow, Stretch says, but now it has become a June fixture.

"And I know that for the immigrants who are involved, it's hugely important. It's their opportunity to show they're here and to participate. They're very happy with it," Stretch said.

The festival takes place at Florence Petersen Park and the Whistler Public Library on Friday, June 9, from 4 to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

It can get busy. Stretch believes 600 to 800 turned out in 2016.

This year, the larger Whistler communities take centre stage with Japanese origami and calligraphy, Mexican and South American food, and Filipino dance.

"We're also introducing an Australian part this year," Stretch says.

"We have more First Nations input, as well. We always invited the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre to do a blessing, but this year the Grades 8 to 10 music class from Xet'ólacw Community School in Mount Currie will holding their end-of-year performance at the festival."

Indigenous dancer Gerald Gabriel will also be performing.

There will be martial arts demonstration, along with displays on loan from the Whistler Museum, which is offering free admission on the day.

And there will be multicultural storytelling and games for children in the library.

The popular food tables will sell delicious treats from India, Italy, Japan, France, Australia, Thailand, Mexico, New Zealand, Argentina and Chile.

The multicultural network works on two levels, to assist new arrivals and also to help connections in the wider community.

"The library and the museum and the community have been so encouraging. It is a big day. The community is welcoming and that is huge," Stretch says.

The Whistler Multicultural Network provides support and services to immigrants at the resort year round.

For more information on the festival and the network, visit www.welcomewhistler.com.

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