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‘Small Town – Big World,’ new multicultural event, planned Saturday in Alton


altonmainstreetculturaday2Sugar skull face painting will be featured at Little Mexico Mexican Restaurant, one of many activities that will be part of the Small Town – Big World community event this Saturday in Alton. Marquette Catholic High School Spanish Club and a host of groups are to participate.

ALTON — This Saturday, March 18, Alton Main Street will present a new daylong cultural celebration called “Small Town – Big World,” featuring a variety of activities representing the community’s diverse culture.

Ten establishments in and near Downtown Alton will participate in the event, which is a homegrown effort with members of the public contributing elements of ethnic cuisine, traditional clothing, world music, folk art, dance performances, martial arts, sports, and information from faith communities.

“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,” said Sara McGibany, executive director of Alton Main Street. “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.”

A passport will direct attendees on this self-guided exploration, and a schedule of events can be found on the Events page of as well as

Details of the activities at each venue are as follows:

At Little Mexico Mexican Restaurant, enjoy traditional Mexican song and dance with the Marquette Catholic High School Spanish Club, sugar skull face painting, make a Mexican Folk Art Project – Tin Stamping, learn about the Ancient Mayan culture of Mexico and Guatemala, see examples of traditional clothing, and take home a worry doll souvenir.
At Jacoby Arts Center, you can meet the star players from Principia College Rugby Team who hail from all over the world. Watch scrimmages in the neighboring park and learn about this internationally popular sport. Inside the gallery, The Council on American-Islamic Relations will provide the opportunity to “Meet a Muslim” while you enjoy ethnic finger foods, see your name written in Arabic. Guests can check out a “hijab selfie” station for ladies to try on Muslim women garb, as well as a henna station for females to get their hands or feet decorated with henna, which is common at weddings.

The fourth annual “Nations of the World Dining Event” is an international luncheon that will take place at Deliverance Temple. There is no admission charge for educational presentations about formal dining etiquette, musical performances and more from 1 to 3 p.m., and delicious cuisine from a variety of ethnic backgrounds will be served from 3 to 4, with a cost of $2 for youth and $15 per adult. Tickets are available at the door, and funds raised will support the youth mentoring and tutoring program “Art of Universal Language” which Allen Collins has voluntarily operated since 2011 to teach children about art, music, technology and other life skills to help improve their education and integrity.

River Bend Yoga 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 Downtown will feature a display of books and other resources on the countries and cultures highlighted during “Small Town – Big World.”

The Old Bakery Beer Company will host traditional dancing and clothing of the Philippenes, 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, and 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: Pacific Porter (porter aged on Nori), and a Goldsabi (Golden Oat aged on fresh Wasabi).

At Grassroots Grocery, 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, the history of Rocky Fork Church in Godfrey, and the Enos Apartment building in Downtown Alton. At this location guests can also take a look at foreign currency coins from all over the globe and pick their favorite to take home as a souvenir.

Elijah P’s 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. Enjoy a buffet of German food, with brats, sauerkraut, beer pretzels, sauerbraten, and spatzle. They’ll also have Paulaner Hefeweisen and Pilser Urquell (Czech) on tap. To signify neighboring Belgium, a new Alton-based food truck called “Flights Coffee & Waffle Bar” will be serving up authentic Belgian waffles in the parking lot all day. The Bridge newspaper of Lewis and Clark Community College will have an info 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 It’s Raining Zen at Mineral Springs Mall, sit around the 12-foot teepee and listen to Native American history and stories told by Coyote Chris Sutton, member of the Red Cedar Circle of Southwestern Illinois. Watch Grant Zeidler hand stretch a drum skin, or 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 under the age of 10 receive a free dreamcatcher.

At Lucianna’s Pastries, 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 of the event are: Liberty Bank, Simmons Hanly Conroy, Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau, Argosy Casino, Roberts Motors, Piasa Body Art, Old Bakery Beer Company, Williams Office Products, AdVantage News, The Telegraph, WBGZ and

      From the Illinois Business Journal

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