Montgomery County is home to many people from different cultures and the World of Montgomery festival, which took place Sunday afternoon in downtown Wheaton, showcased the county’s diversity through music, dance and food.
“We are so proud to celebrate our cultural diversity,” Susan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts and Humanity Council, said. “We need to learn and respect one another and this festival helps us do that.”
For its fourth annual celebration, the festival partnered with Kids International Discovery (KID) Museum to create an international village, with four large tents representing China, India, El Salvador and Ethiopia.
Jill Chessen, co-founder of KID Museum, was pleased with the turnout.
“Montgomery is such a diverse county,” Chessen said. “We live next to people and don’t know much about them. We hope that this festival gives people a flavor of their cultures.”
Children at the festival were able to engage in hands-on activities and received a stamp on their “passports” for visiting the various tents.
Alemtsehay Wedajo, manager of the Ethiopian tent, wanted festival-goers to feel like they were walking into “a small Ethiopian village in the city of Wheaton.” Pushpa Dashottar, a member of the organizing committee for the India tent, explained that the whole idea behind the festival was to have people become a part of another’s culture by learning and trying new things.
Stages on each end of the central parking lot in downtown Wheaton featured dancers and musicians from the four immigrant populations. Montgomery County has forged sister city agreements with Morazan, El Salvador, and Gondar, Ethiopia, and are looking into creating ties with China and India.
“This is not just a party or learning experience,” Bruce Adams, director at the county's Office of Community Partnerships, said. “It is a community-building environment where members of the government, owners of businesses, and locals come together and get to know each other.”
Several county political figures attended the event, such as the Montgomery County executive.
“[The festival] is a reflection of great diversity as well as an opportunity for people to come together to help build and better the community,” County Executive Isiah Leggett said.
One of the highlights of this year’s celebration was the cook-off between four local Salvadoran restaurants--finally settling the question of who makes the best pupusa in town. The winner for the title of Best Pupuseria was La Frontera, a Mexican and Latin American restaurant with locations in Silver Spring and Gaithersburg. The festivities concluded with a colorful parade of nations displaying the diversity of Montgomery County.
Adams believes the World of Montgomery is going to become a world-class festival. He is proud with the result and hopes that someday a Wheaton park will be created and dedicated to the World of Montgomery festival.
"This is the first time we really did it right,” Adams said. “My 90-year-old mother had her first pupusa today and enjoyed it.”