A group photo from 2016’s Multicultural Festival. Barry Coulter photo.

Cranbrook Multicultural Festival continues to celebrate diversity

Paul Rodgers

The fourth annual Cranbrook Multicultural Festival takes place August 18 and 19 and since its inception in 2014 it has grown and expanded, from 1000 attendees the first year to around 3000 last year.

Coco Seitz first came to Canada from China in 2009 and in 2014 she, along with some friends, founded the Cranbrook Multicultural Society, for which she is currently president. She said at that time there weren’t any cultural events for Cranbrook.

“We wanted to celebrate our diversity,” she said. “As an immigrant myself, I wanted to see more people recognizing the different cultures in this community and also learn from these cultures.”

In 2013, then Mayor, now Member of Parliament Wayne Stetski, wrote an article expressing how he thought that as Cranbrook was becoming more culturally diverse it would be great for the city to have a cultural festival.

He said about a week later he was approached by Coco toting an eight-page proposal detailing her plan to put together a cultural festival for 2014. A committee was forme with the inaugural meeting taking place in the council chambers at City Hall and group was formed that ultimately became the Multicultural Society.

“Coco really has been the driving force behind it right from its inception and continues to put in countless volunteer hours to get the funding for the festival,” said Stetski. “And also along with the board of directors working very closely, but Coco certainly is the lead on making sure that it happens.”

“[Wayne] was one of the ones to help get the festival in the first place, it was his vision to see a multicultural fest in Cranbrook and I had the same vision,” said Seitz. “He helped me round up the first group of people to get it going and get the festival started.”

Seitz said that in addition to offering tremendous help to keep them going every year Stetski also represents Canada at the festival with a booth celebrating our nation’s culture, and providing information on how parliament works to people who are looking for federal government services.

This year’s event kicks off Friday the 18th at the Connect Church event room with a free henna tattoo workshop. Their are currently 19 cultures and counting that will be represented and Seitz said that the festival showcases cultures in three different ways: food, heritage through cultural displays at booths, and performance. This year they will also be demonstrating a different sport from a different culture every hour on the hour.

The cuisine is definitely a big component of the festival; Stetski said at the first year he had three lunches because, “I wanted to try three different cultural feasting opportunities.”

There will be Greek, Italian, Filipino, Pakistani and Chinese food among others. Seitz owns Mama’s Dumplings and their food truck will have their debut at this year’s festival, which she says is very exciting for her.

The Ktunaxa nation will have dancers performing and First Nations and Metis culture is a pivotal element of the festival.

“It’s very important to recognize that we’re sharing this incredible part of the world with the First Nations and that they were here first,” Stetski said.

The festival coincides with the Cranbrook Farmer’s Market and so this weekend is an excellent opportunity to get out and soak in the wide array of culture that is present in the community.

“It’s a great event, I truly believe in cultural diversity and I believe that it really enhances our community and enhances our lives, so I’m really happy to celebrate diversity,” Stetski said. “It’s a very special day for Cranbrook and it’s great to be part of it.”