Arizona Republic
April 19, 2007

Author: Srianthi Perera, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 3

Examine an authentic Peruvian costume; observe Mehndi, the art of Indian henna body painting; and watch Spanish dancers, all without a passport.

The Gilbert Global Village Festival promises these and more treats from more than 60 cultures during a cornucopia of arts, music, dance and sports on Saturday at the Gilbert North Civic Center Campus.

A stroll down the Avenue of the Arts yields local artisans displaying wares, while the International Bazaar sells everything from Chinese calligraphy to Irish crafts.

"I really wanted an event that celebrates all cultures in Gilbert, and one that was educational," said Gayle Disch, a festival co-founder who has lived in the town for 22 years.

Disch also is vice president of Gilbert Sister Cities, which organized the event with the town's Arts Advisory Board, Human Relations Commission and Gilbert Public Schools.

Disch coordinated the Parade of Nations, where town children wearing traditional-style costumes carry the flags from about 30 countries in the United Nations.

Among the costumes is a garment from Lithuania that was given to Gilbert resident Nancy Genys by her mother-in-law, whose father gave it to her before his deportation to Siberia by Russians. It is 60 years old and constructed to weather severe cold.

Elizabeth Jacobs, a student at Highland Junior High who donned the Lithuanian costume at last year's festival and may wear it again this year, concedes she learned how cold Lithuania must be by the weight and warmth of the garment.

The dress has an undershirt, an underdress, a blouse under the dress, the actual overdress, an apron and a hat.

"You're pretty much sweating to death if you're Lithuanian in Arizona,"
Jacobs, 13, said.

The teen, who studies dance at Class Act Performing Arts Academy, also will perform on the World Stageat the festival.

More student participation will occur this year through a partnership with Gilbert Public Schools. Sixth-graders will present their world fair projects while wearing the native dress of the country.

Also new this year: Highland athletes participating in athletic games such as the Scottish caber toss (imagine throwing a telephone pole), and athletes teaching children Aussie Rules Football.

In addition to the sights, sounds and tastes that are a part of this exploratory festival, there are educational activities presented by the Gilbert Historical Museum, Home Depot, Heard Museum, Arizona Museum for Youth and Free Arts of Arizona, among others.

"Our dreams have really come true because the communities have the opportunity to come together and get to know each other and learn more about each others' culture and education," Disch said.

Last year's festival drew about 5,000 people and it's expected to grow this year.

"We want the festival to remain free so that everybody can come. We're hoping that we can get Gilbert to grow on its philanthropy, both from individuals and businesses," Disch said.

Gilbert Global Village Festival

What: A multi-cultural celebration with entertainment, fine arts, food, activities, merchandise and more.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Parade of Nations from 11-11:30 a.m.

Where: Gilbert North Civic Center Campus, 50 E. Civic Center Drive, Gilbert (southeast corner of Gilbert and Warner roads).

Cost: Free.

Details: (480) 503-6895 or www.ci.gilbert.az.us/arts/events.cfm.