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Thrill of hosting dancers

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SPRINGVILLE — Dancers from all over the globe have traveled here for 16 years to celebrate cultures.

But organizers of the Springville World Folkfest say it wouldn't have happened without the generosity of area families.

Each year in July, some 85 host families open their doors to about 170 performers for a week.

"That's the backbone of the whole event," said festival general director Teddy Anderson. "Without the host families, there would be no way in the world that we could afford to do a project of this magnitude."

Rose Shepherd and her husband, Floyd, have hosted dancers in their home every year since the festival began in 1985, with the exception of two years when they served a mission for their church.

"We've had some fun. A lot of experiences and a lot of laughs," Rose Shepherd said.

Of course, not every dance group speaks English very well, so the couple makes do with other ways of communicating.

"We love foreign people and we like to get acquainted with them. We have our master's degree in charades," she said.

This year, dancers from Albania, Belgium, China, Greece, India, Israel, Macedonia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines and Uganda will be performing.

Anderson said the festival does not pay any of the dancers. Many dance groups are sponsored by their own governments, while others rely on donations.

"We do allow some fund-raising," Anderson said, in the form of selling items native to their countries during the festival.

Dancers are expected to start arriving today, and the festival begins Saturday with a reception and parade.

Evening performances begin at 8 p.m. and will run July 9-14 at Spring Acres Park, 620 S. 1350 East.

"You could go every night of the festival and see a different performance," Anderson said.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for senior citizens and $3 for children 12 and under.

Anderson said because dancers are on such a tight schedule, host families provide transportation and keep them on time.

"Being artists, they tend to be a tad flaky," she said.

Donna Breckenridge said she does not mind one bit.

Breckenridge and her family have hosted dancers for eight years. She said it is a chance for her kids to experience the world.

"The kids are more aware of events in the rest of the world. I mean, Utah Valley is not their only thing," Breckenridge said.

In the past the family has hosted dancers from Mexico, France, England, Turkey, Greece and Canada.

"We signed up for Uganda, but the last we heard, they were having visa problems. If that happens, we'll go with Nigeria," Breckenridge said.

Host families and organizers say the dance festival goes beyond an entertaining event — it opens the doorway to understanding.

Many families still keep in touch with past dance groups, and some have traveled to other countries to visit them.

For more information on the World Folkfest, call 489-2700 or 489-2726.

E-MAIL: gfattah@desnews.com