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Utahns opening homes to dancers from around world

4-day folk-dance festival begins in Bountiful tonight

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BOUNTIFUL — More than 80 families in Davis County this week have opened up their homes to strangers from around the world as the city prepares to host the four-day Bountiful Summerfest International .

This year, roughly 235 performers from 10 countries have paid their own way to come to Utah and be a part of what is billed as one of the largest folk dance festivals in the Intermountain West. And all of the performers are staying with local residents.

"These are people who love to dance and play music from their homeland," Bountiful/Davis Art Center director Arley Curtz said. "There's a lot of cultural exchange that goes on."

Performers from countries such as Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Israel, Martinique, Mexico, Slovakia and Turkey have been visiting year-round elementary schools in Davis County this week and gave a free performance at the International Folk Arts Festival in West Valley City Tuesday night.

The Bountiful Summerfest International begins Wednesday night with a free street dance behind the Bountiful/Davis Art Center at 745 S. Main beginning at 7. Thursday through Saturday the festival moves to Bountiful City Park at 400 N. 200 West and goes from 11 a.m. until dusk each day.

Along with performances throughout the day, various international foods and arts and crafts will be available. Admission to Summerfest is $4 per person or $12 per family. For more information and a performance schedule, visit www.bdac.com.

The Bountiful/Davis Art Center has been hosting the art and folk festival for the past 12 years, and each year the center recruits families in the area to give the performers a place to stay while they are in Utah.

Julie Faucett of Woods Cross has hosted festival performers for the past 11 years. She and her husband, Mike, have four men from Martinique, and island in the Caribbean, staying in their home this year.

"The funnest part for me is when they sit in my basement and play the drums and sing," Faucett said. "I feel like I've left Utah."

Host families provide room, board and transportation for the performers for the 10 days they are in Utah. Curtz said the host family program is one of the "most exciting parts of the festival" and that many families volunteer their homes every year.

"It's very much a community effort," he said. "There's a lot of bonding that goes on. . . . Nine out of 10 times, when they say goodbye to their dancers, there will be a lot of tears in a lot of eyes."

Faucett said she schedules her vacation time each year around Summerfest so she can host performers. One year she had 23 performers from France staying in her home because for a few days there were simply far more performers than host families.

"We put up three tents in our back yard," she said.

Although the language barrier can make communicating difficult, Faucett said she and her family have been able to learn a lot about other cultures.

"It was a real eye-opener for my kids. . . . You have to be open minded," she said.

E-mail: ehayes@desnews.com