Celebrating Whistler's diversity 

Whistler Multicultural Festival returns on Friday, June 7 at Whistler Public Library

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Fest Fun A calligraphy workshop (pictured here in 2018) is just one of the events at the Whistler Multicultural Festival on Friday, June 7.
  • Photo submitted
  • Fest Fun A calligraphy workshop (pictured here in 2018) is just one of the events at the Whistler Multicultural Festival on Friday, June 7.

The organizers of the Whistler Multicultural Festival have learned a few things over the last seven years.

For one, it's wise to let Mother Nature do her thing and host a few activities indoors.

"We're going to be inside the library again just because of the rain," says Carole Stretch, one of those organizers. "The performances and activities (will be) inside the library then the food and a couple other activities will take place on the plaza from 4 to 8 p.m."

The annual event celebrating Whistler's diverse community is set to take place on Friday, June 7. More than a dozen cultures will be represented through food, crafts, performances, and volunteers onsite.

"Lots more people know about it (than in the past), but I think there are lots of people who don't," Stretch adds. "Awareness grows over years and time, but we're still working it out."

This year, they're hoping to spread the word to attract as many people as possible to the one-day event. The goal is to spark conversations and promote understanding.

"This town has a great amount of diversity," Stretch says. "We really want people to understand how diverse we are and what these people bring to the community and integrate them into the community—get people to meet, get people to talk so we can really be inclusive."

And then, of course, there's also the food. This year, a group of volunteer immigrants are getting together the day before the festival to make popular items from their cultures for festival-goers to try.

"Food is so, so integral to culture," Stretch says. "We organized a group and facilitated immigrants who want to showcase their food, so they can talk about it."

To that end, there will be empanadas, zaalouk, phad thai, crepes, cotton candy (with a Japanese spin), sari sari, and bread and cakes from various cultures.

"We tried to keep the costs low so that everyone can try it," Stretch adds.

Throughout the event, there will also be performances, including YangGe, a traditional folk dance from Northeast China; singing and drumming from Xet'olacw Community School's Grades 4 and 5 classes; Haka lessons from New Zealand; and several different dancers and singers of Filipino background.

"This year we asked questions (like), 'What does this mean in your culture?' 'Why do you want to perform this?'" Stretch says. "We're trying to tie into the culture and learn about what people's cultures are."

On top of that, there will be plenty of craft sessions as well. Lessons on Japanese calligraphy, decorating a Mexican piñata, Mexican and Japanese mask painting are just a few that will be on offer.

"We have a Japanese lady doing three, 30-min. calligraphy workshops teaching people about characters, how to hold a brush, how to make their brush strokes and create calligraphy brush strokes," Stretch says.

While crafts might seem geared towards family, plenty of adult community members also attend the festival.

"We've seen more community members," Stretch says. "Last year we had somebody I know who has lived here for a long time. He came and went, 'Wow, do all these people live in Whistler?' ... I think it's really important for people to live the diversity themselves."

The Whistler Multicultural Festival takes place on Friday, June 7 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Whistler Public Library. For more information, visit welcomewhistler.com/programs-services/whistler-multicultural-festival/

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