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Culture Fest reaching out to diversify Days of ’47

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Two years ago, organizers of the Days of '47 celebration thought about injecting some new life into Utah's birthday party. "We came to the harsh realization that the overall public perception of the event was a very Mormon program," co-chairwoman Ann Asman told the Deseret News. "We realized we needed to reach out to include everyone in this celebration."

While it's true the Days of '47 pays homage to the settling of Utah by pioneer members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Asman said a more multicultural angle was needed to show the world where Utah stands in the modern day.

"The advisory board came up with the idea of Culture Fest," said advisory board member Sidney Price. "Our goal was to help everyone who lives in the community feel welcome, without diluting or ignoring the reason why Utah is in existence."

Last fall, the Culture Fest was born during a brainstorm session.

The Days of '47 Culture Fest will take place Saturday, July 21, at This Is the Place Heritage Park, from noon-8 p.m. In addition to musical entertainment, there will be a hands-on crafts booth for children, and food and drink. Admission is free.

"We are not trying to compete or duplicate what the other organizations have done with multicultural events," explained Price. "We're not trying to be the Living Traditions Festival or the Utah Arts Festival. Instead we're trying to be something else.

"I'd like to see the variety of performers show how their culture has contributed to the Utah experience. There is a limitless well of diversity that can be found in Utah, which a majority of the world doesn't know about."

American Indian, Japanese, Hispanic and Pacific Islander are only a few of the cultures that can be found in Utah, said Price. "More recently, we've seen an increase of activity with the Bosnian and Tibetan communities. It's exciting."

This is the first year the Culture Fest will be part of the Days of '47, said Price. "We're not trying to change the Days of 47. We're just adding to it. We want others to feel like they're part of Utah. That's different than just feeling invited.

"I have a friend who has lived in Utah most of her life, but she's not a member of the dominant religion. She told me that all these years she knew she was invited. She just didn't feel like she was involved. We want to change that mindset with this year's Culture Fest."

While the Days of '47 was founded to salute the LDS pioneers who settled in the valley, Price said the organizers are defining pioneers as "those who go before and make it easier for those who follow.

"We are welcoming pioneers from all nations to celebrate with us."

E-mail: scott@desnews.com