UMW Multicultural Fair offers campus community ‘a global experience’

by | Apr 12, 2024 | ALLFFP, Arts and Entertainment, Schools & Education, University of Mary Washington

When the University of Mary Washington multicultural fair began more than three decades ago, there was a conscious effort from school officials to showcase the vibrance of minority groups such as Blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans. 

But as the event enters its 34th year, UMW’s definition of diversity has expanded, said Marion Sanford, assistant vice president of student affairs and director of the James Farmer Multicultural Center. 

“We’ve expanded in ways through race and ethnicity demographics, but also religious minorities, sexual orientation and gender,” Sanford said. “We’ve encompassed all of those under this umbrella to try to showcase traditions and customs that are important to each of those groups.”

A worker at Chef Hogate cooks Thai chicken at a previous fair. (Submitted photo)

This year’s event is Saturday at UMW from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. rain or shine. The fair is open to the public and features entertainment on three main stages, including a children’s stage, with music and dance performances the entire day. The event will be on the main thoroughfare of UMW, commonly called Campus Walk. It will encompass the front part of the campus by the bell tower through the middle of the campus.

There will also be vendors with crafts from all over the world, food trucks and bouncehouses. Admission is free, but there will be a cost for food and crafts. 

“Individuals will be able to walk around and explore the different vendors with various cultural items, many of them very unique and handmade,” Sanford said. “A lot of time and effort went into creating these pieces. Guests can have a global experience without leaving the campus community.” 

Baskets made by African women were sold at a previous UMW Multicultural Fair. (Submitted photo)

Sanford said although the event evolved over the years, the primary purpose remains the same – to connect the UMW and Fredericksburg communities. 

“We’ve stayed true to the original goal of the fair, which was to raise multicultural awareness and make sure members of the campus community are able to continue celebrating diversity along with the Fredericksburg community and surrounding areas,” Sanford said. “We wanted the fair to be where these two groups come together to celebrate the similarities and differences of various cultures and ethnicities in the university as well as in Fredericksburg.”

Sanford said campus partners, volunteers and sponsors help make the event happen each year.  The fair, which averages between 5,000 and 6,000 attendees per year, is the second-largest event on campus each year behind only graduation. 

“We’re very proud of our ability to offer this experience,” Sanford said. “I call it an experience, but I also call it a celebration, because we offer this, not just for the campus, but for the broader community.” 

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