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Utah celebrates refugees Sunday

Groups from around the world to perform at Gallivan Center

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With Vietnamese Dragon dancers, a Russian Jewish choir, African drummers and ethnic food, World Refugee Day will be celebrated in Utah on Sunday with a landmark event at the Gallivan Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

On Thursday, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. signed a proclamation declaring Sunday World Refugee Day in Utah, according to the event's coordinator, Anne Davis.

"This is going to be a wonderful event honoring a very special part of Utah's population," said Davis, who works for Catholic Community Services, an agency that resettles refugees in their new Utah homes.

The event will take place from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

A variety of refugee groups have signed on to participate. The Vietnamese Dragon dancers will perform. A Russian Jewish choir called "L'Chaim," which means "To life," will sing songs in Yiddish, Russian, English and Hebrew.

Sudanese Dinka-Malual tribal drummers and dancers will perform as will two groups from Somalia. Members of the Bosnian and Pakistani communities will perform folk dances.

There will be ethnic food from Southern Sudan, Russia/Armenia, Ethiopia and Bosnia, in addition to speeches and information about Utah's diverse refugee community.

"We hope all fathers will come down to celebrate Father's Day," said Jane Willey, who works closely with members of the refugee community and is the family involvement coordinator for the Community of Caring in the Salt Lake School District. "It's a great way to do something new and unique for Dad."

Salt Lake City is one of numerous cities throughout the United States where refugees escaping various forms of strife in their home countries are "resettled." Officials estimate 30,000 to 50,000 refugees have escaped perilous circumstances and resettled here.

Salt Lake City schoolchildren are also making posters for the event under the theme, "Utah Welcomes the World Every Day." High school students from Highland, East and West high schools will work as hosts at the event.

Volunteers are still needed to set up before and clean up after the event. For more information, call Anne Davis at 977-9119, ext. 1242 or 428-1242.

E-mail: lucy@desnews.com