2008 Parade of Nation
2008 Parade of Nation Video Sample
2008 Parade of Nation Video Sample
Parade: Music, Dance and Food from Around the World
by John Gagnon, promotional writer, and Kara Sokol, integrated marketing specialist/editor
The Parade of Nations is a march to the drumbeat of diversity.
Dream catchers and batons. Saris and kimonos. Tech's irrepressible Pep Band. Jew and Christian. Buddhist and Hindu. Babushkas and headdresses. A rainbow of flags. "The melting pot of cultural harmony," one float boasted of America.
Saturday's walk was a celebration of color, a kaleidoscopic burst. Young Chinese women wore sheathes of form-fitting fuchsia cheongsam, while Native American men were adorned with beads and brightly dyed feathers. The music was thrilling, the harmony infectious. The yearly spectacle is Michigan Tech's gift to a community that gives a warm welcome to strangers in the first place.
People from all over the world come to teach, study and work at
Michigan Tech. They represent more than 80 countries. Everybody with different foods, and a palate in common; everybody with different costumes, and an appreciative eye in common; everybody with different interests, with dreams in common.
"This is huge," one observer said of both the festivities and the spirit. After the parade, inside Dee Stadium, the crush of people was elbow to elbow, the congestion itself demanding patience and tolerance.
Fredline Ilorme, a doctoral student in civil and environmental
engineering from Haiti, came to Michigan Tech because it seemed
"different and interesting—just what I was looking for," she says.
Ilorme says that the best part about being here is the community: "The people are supportive and the land is beautiful—I love spending time outdoors."
Standing amid the bustle, Ilorme clutches a plate containing a sampling of the day's tastiest fare. When asked what she misses most about her home country, she waves her free hand toward the plate and exclaims, "The food, of course!"
Robert Lopez doesn't just like sampling the foods—he enjoys preparing them as well. The night before, he and friends prepared loaves of pulla, a sweet Finnish cardamom bread, for the day's event. Born and raised in Cuba, Lopez came to the United States in the late 1950s, making a home in southern Florida. He met his wife, a Calumet native, when her family relocated to Florida after the Keweenaw mining boom ended. "My wife's father was a miner and a proud Michigan Tech graduate," Lopez says. "He moved his family south to find work, but his heart was in this community."
Through his wife's family, Lopez developed a similar love of the area. And now, nearly 50 years later, Lopez remains drawn to the Keweenaw—and the Michigan Tech community. "I always look forward to my visits, and I really enjoy this event," Lopez explains. "Such great food, so much activity, and the parade was
unbelievable—twice as long as I expected."
Jennifer Mwangi, a graduate student in environmental engineering from Kenya, admires the many programs, like Engineers Without Borders, that send Tech students to help out in underdeveloped countries. She can't participate in that kind of outreach because her graduate research is too intensive, but she remains a fan. She came to Tech from Minnesota and was initially "shocked" by the small size of the town. Now she's content. "It’s grown on me." She likes to spread the message that her native country is not just "war, and hunger, and poverty."
"There's so much more," she says—describing a nation based on strong families and an ethic of helpfulness and ambition. "They never give up," she says of her country's people. What she likes most about America is the diversity and freedom of speech. "I just love it here."
Rocio Garcia, of Mexico, just graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology. She is heading to a job in Chicago. She will remember Tech fondly, especially the faculty. "The professors," she says, "they take care of you." Michigan Tech was "tough," she said, "but I learned a lot." She says the best thing about her country is the food; the best thing about America is people with "structure and organization."
Linda Manenkem, a senior in chemical engineering from Cameroon, chose to come to Tech because she believed a small community would provide an atmosphere conducive to study, and because the chemical engineering program is strong. She arrived shy and reticent. She will leave more bold and outgoing. What she likes most about Americans is their generosity—the fact that students would travel to relief efforts instead of spring break party destinations. "I like the idea—people come together," she says. She says America is like Cameroon: "Very welcoming."
There was a small contingent representing our congenial and vast neighbor to the north. Brenda Rudiger, director, alumni relations, and Lesley Lovett-Doust, provost, were in the parade. They both came to Tech from Canada.
Rudiger says that America and Canada share many features, including a lot of geography—the Rocky Mountains, the Arctic, the Great Lakes and the prairies—and friendly people. Unique to Canada? The iconic Royal Canadian Mounted Police, great beer and rye whiskey, Loonies and Twonies, and an enviable political scene with "very short federal elections." "Cool, eh?" she says.
Doust singles out Canada's geography and politics too, as well as hockey, health care and diplomacy. What does she admire about America? Many things. High on the list are "The constitution, entrepreneurship, older buildings and discourse."
One woman watching the parade, Donna Bardos, lived in Los Angeles for more than 50 years. She moved to Calumet four years ago and was surprised to find such friendly people. Quite a contrast from southern California, she says. "I thought, 'Am I in another country or what?'"