The World of Montgomery Celebrates Cultural Differences

The World of Montgomery’s 10th annual festival is upon us. Coming Sunday, October 21, at Montgomery College Rockville, DMV area residents and visitors can discover, enjoy and appreciate the diversity this area has helped mold over time.

Montgomery County, one of only a few counties in the United States with a majority-minority demographic, hosts the festival every year with thousands who turn out to understand and recognize the cultures from all over the world. The festival has a theme every year where people from respective countries demonstrate their cultures in relation to the theme. This year, it’s “Light.”

People from different countries are invited every year to present fresh and various things. One culture new this year is Iraq, that will incorporate the magic lamp from “Aladdin,” which originated in the country.

A country returning this year is Thailand, introducing the activity Krathong making. Krathong is a vessel full of offering and candles that people from Thailand float on water during the Loi Krathong festival, the area’s festival of lights where they show appreciation for the water goddess Pra Mae Khongkha.

One highlight of the World of Montgomery which brings all of the countries together is the Parade of Cultures. Here, participants and performers wear traditional attire and show off their culture’s dances. The parade includes percussion rhythms by traditional African drummers and Latin American and Asian dancers. It concludes at the main stage, where local government officials and sponsors reinforce the importance of multicultural acceptance to make Montgomery County a welcoming community.

Performers from individual countries will showcase their talents on a stage at the festival, which will also be broadcast on Montgomery College Television. Last year, there was a Korean fan dance, where the female dancers used gestures and movements to express emotions in relation to nature.

The World of Montgomery festival is part of the KID Museum’s continual effort to promote individual diversity and global citizenship, a crucial component of their year-round and maker-based cultural programming. The museum partnered with the county and Montgomery College, among many other sponsors, to reach out to local organizations and embassies to get people from different backgrounds to demonstrate their cultures with interactive or hands-on activities.

Although the KID Museum tailors many maker-based cultural activities toward children, there are things to engage and entertain parents as well. Two examples that were popular with parents included the Ethiopian coffee tasting and India’s Henna painting.

The manager of cultural programs, Dya Ishak, moved to the United States from Indonesia as a cultural enthusiast. She says that as an enthusiast, she has connected to many cultural organizations all over the DMV area. She adds that it is rewarding to see how hard individual embassies and organizations prepare for the festival, happy to have their culture be accepted as part of it.

Ishak notes that many of the embassies sacrifice a lot of their time and money to import things from their home country in order to bring them to the World of Montgomery festival. By seeing all of these pieces come together for their presentations, Ishak feels motivated to learn about the different cultures, making her respect each culture more and more.

Ishak also works with embassies during the year for monthly cultural programs at the KID Museum that are held from fall to spring. Recent examples include Oman Day in January and Taiwan Day in May.

One of the great takeaways from the World of Montgomery festival, according to Ishak, is that children become more accepting of each other’s differences.

“Our differences should bring us together,” Ishak said in an interview with Montgomery College Television last year. “We should teach kids to respect differences, and that’s what the festival is all about: bringing people together.”