A group of performers, some from parts of Africa, others from America, Jamaica and even Japan, had less than 24 hours’ notice to prepare for the 5th Annual Port Chester Fest, but they pulled through with a great performance.
“We are very diverse. This (dance program) was last minute. They called us yesterday because somebody couldn’t do it,” said Vado Diomande, master dancer and drum maker of Kotchegna Dance Company. “But we can do anything anytime; I’m ready to do this. Today I’m happy to be here. I’m showing my culture to everybody and I can’t believe it.”
“We got a late cancellation, but got another act that fit right in perfectly,” said of the .
Only at can one find such a melting pot of cultures. The annual event is in its fifth year and is designed to promote a positive image of the village and unite the diverse community through art, music and family activities.
“(The diversity is) the very essence of the event. You might be Bolivian and you come here to see the Bolivian music and dancers, but you’re going to stay and see an Italian singer or Ecuadorian or Spanish or whatever it may be,” said Lipka. “You’re exposing yourself to different cultures, to your neighbors. It’s a chance for people to come out and say Hello.”
The 2012 lineup included the Calpulli Mexican Dance Company , Italian classical performances by Malena Dayen , a Multicultural fashion show starring local children and families , the Bethesda Baptist Church Intergenerational Choir, a Zumba Fitness Party, Capoeira with Mestre Bom Jesus, Bolivian sensationMarkax Laiku Bolivia with Port Chester’s own Bolivian Carnival dancers, and local R&B star Curtis Winchester.
"The entertainment we have here represents the cultures of Port Chester," said Mayor Dennis Pila. "It’s really fantastic. It’s a celebration of the diversity of our cultures."
"People sometimes underestimate Port Chester," said NY State Legislator George Latimer. "They don’t know how great the community is. It really shows you, not just the diversity, but the strength of Port Chester."
Residents had a heavy hand in planning and promoting the event and the diverse Port Chester populations gave input on this year’s fest, according to Lipka. Along with the showcasing of musicians from around the world, there were creative art workshops, more than 25 informative community resources and this was the first year the fest was combined with the .
Lipka said Port Chester and the surrounding communities represent one of the most diverse regions of Westchester County and the fest is designed to be inclusive and representative of the community.
“(It’s great) seeing people enjoy a great day and not having to worry about all their problems, just enjoying what makes Port Chester great, which is the families and diversity,” he said.
“It’s really exciting that they’re (showcasing) … different cultures from around the world and that now people are living together in the United States,” said a performer from the Mexican Dancing Company, which is based in Queens. “ We’re happy that we’re able to share this with everybody. That’s what we love to do. We tour around the tri-state area, but also nationally. We like to do programs that are educational and entertaining. We’re super excited to be here.”