Alton Main Street is hosting a new cultural celebration Saturday, March 18, with sites scattered throughout the city.
From noon to 8 p.m., those taking part in the celebration will have the chance to take part in a variety of activities at 10 establishments in and near Alton’s downtown, and representing the multicultural diversity of the community.
Small Town — Big World is a homegrown effort with members of the public contributing elements of ethnic cuisine, traditional clothing, world music, folk art, dance performances, martial arts and sports, along with information from faith-based organizations.
“An international event has been one of the biggest requests we’ve heard from the public, and Alton Main Street is happy to be able to provide the framework that brings everyone together,” said Sara McGibany, executive director of Alton Main Street. “This will be a very exciting day for Alton to demonstrate that we are an inclusive community where people embrace and celebrate the heritage that makes each of us unique.”
Those planning to attend can find their “passports” for the self-guided day of activities on the Events page of DowntownAlton.com as well as on Alton Main Street’s Facebook page.
Here’s a breakdown of activities planned at each location:
At Little Mexico, Alton’s newest Mexican restaurant at 109 W. Ninth St., visitors can enjoy traditional Mexican song and dance with the Marquette Catholic High School’s Spanish Club as well as sugar skull face painting, making a Mexican folk art project with tin stamping, learn about the ancient Mayan culture of Mexico and Guatemala with the Mustard Seed Peace Project, see examples of traditional clothing, and take home a worry doll souvenir.
Jacoby Arts Center, 627 E. Broadway, will host the star players from Principia College rugby team, who hail from all over the world. Visitors will have the opportunity to watch scrimmages in the neighboring park while learning about this internationally popular sport. Inside the gallery, the Council on American-Islamic Relations will provide the opportunity to “Meet a Muslim” while you experience ethnic finger foods and see your name written in Arabic. Guests can check out a “hijab selfie” station for women to try on Muslim women garb, as well as a henna station for females to get their hands or feet decorated with henna, a common practice for Muslim wedding ceremonies.
The fourth annual Nations of the World Dining Event is an international luncheon that will take place at Deliverance Temple, 1125 E. Sixth St. There is no admission charge for the educational presentations about formal dining etiquette, musical performances and more happening from 1 to 3 p.m. Delicious cuisine from a variety of ethnic backgrounds will be served from 3 to 4 p.m., with a cost of $2 for youth and $15 for adults. Funds raised will support the youth mentoring and tutoring program, Art of Universal Language, voluntarily operated by Allen Collins since 2011 to teach children about art, music, technology and other life skills designed to help improve their education and integrity.
River Bend Yoga, 202 State St., will host Indian classical dancing by Soorya Performing Arts, an open discussion on religion in daily Indian life, a photo booth with Indian attire, a breath-and-mind workshop with BeHappy St. Louis, sari bags available for purchase, and three free yoga classes.
Hayner Public Library’s downtown branch, 326 Belle St., will feature a display of books and other resources on the countries and cultures highlighted during Small Town — Big World. If you would like additional resources, the Hayner staff has noted that they are “happy to assist you in your research any time.”
The Old Bakery Beer Company, 400 Landmarks Blvd., will host traditional dancing and clothing of the Philippines; capoiera, a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music; kendo, the art of Japanese samurai swordsmanship; and an educational Japanese folk art activity called gyotaku, which means “hand-rubbed fish impression” and involves brushing a thin coating of ink on the surface of a faux fish, then making an impression of the inked fish on a thin sheet of paper. The restaurant will offer specials all day, including pork belly ramen, a Taste of Asia appetizer sampler (Japanese edamame, Vietnamese fresh spring roll, Korean chicken wings), and beverage specials including Japanese Mule cocktails and Asia-inspired cask releases including Pacific porter (porter aged on Nori), and a Goldsabi (golden oat aged on fresh wasabi.
At Grassroots Grocery, 415 Ridge St., the public is invited to hear a condensed version of Eric Robinson’s Underground Railroad presentation to learn about our area’s role in the abolitionist movement, including the story of Elijah P. Lovejoy and the history of Rocky Fork Church in Godfrey and the Enos Apartment building in Downtown Alton. At this location guests can also pick up a souvenir, take a look at foreign currency coins from all over the globe and pick your favorite to take home.
Elijah P’s, 401 Piasa St., is representing Germany, and Oktoberfest favorite Joe Polach and the St Louis Express Band will perform ethnic music such as polkas and waltzes, along with a variety of American standard songs such as country and rock ‘n’ roll. To signify neighboring Belgium, a new Alton-based food truck, Flights Coffee & Waffle Bar, will be serving up authentic Belgian waffles in the parking lot all day. The Bridge, Lewis and Clark Community College’s student newspaper, will have an information table about their L&C Has Heart project to spotlight students who perform acts of kindness, devote time to good causes and help out the campus community.
At Mineral Springs Mall, 301 E. Broadway, It’s Raining Zen will host a sit-down around a 12-foot teepee with an opportunity to listen to Native American history and stories told by Coyote Chris Sutton, member of the Red Cedar Circle of Southwestern Illinois. Watch Grant hand-stretch a drum skin and join in the drum circle. Learn about medicine pouches with stones and herbs and make one to take home for a small fee. See Zen’s real-life animal totem, Cochise, a mighty paint horse. The first 20 children younger than 10 will receive a free dreamcatcher.
And at Lucianna’s Pastries, 212 State St., listen to live French and Celtic music played on a hammered dulcimer and learn a French phrase or two with the Alton High School French Club.
Sponsors for this new community event include Liberty Bank, Simmons Hanly Conroy, Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, Argosy Casino, Roberts Motors, Piasa Body Art, Old Bakery Beer Company, Williams Office Products, AdVantage News, The Telegraph, WBGZ and Riverbender.com.