BURLEY — Dancers from around the world will gather in Mini-Cassia Monday through Saturday to experience the culture and share a bit of theirs.
For the past 16 years, Mini-Cassia has stepped up each summer to bring the Magic Valley Folk Festival dance teams to the area and residents have welcomed the dancers into their homes and their hearts.
“This is a great way to learn about the world and its people through entertainment,” Amy Young, co-chairwoman of the festival committee said. “And it happens just down the street and you don’t need to get a passport or anything.”
Many of the activities are free, including the parade, which kicks off the event at 7 p.m. Monday at the Rupert Square, and the Youth Culture Day at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the King Fine Arts Center.
Dance teams from Croatia, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Taiwan and the U.S. will perform at the various events throughout the community during the week, which culminates in two gala performances on Friday and Saturday at the King Fine Arts Center.
Both galas start at 7 p.m. and doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at the Mini-Cassia Chamber of Commerce.
Children who have completed Youth Culture Day passports receive $1 off the cost of their tickets.
During the parade, there will be food for sale from vendors on the Square along with souvenirs available for purchase from the dancers’ home countries.
After the parade, the dance teams will perform for the audience.
“The dancers will be very interactive and involve the audience during the performance,” Krista Gammon, co-chairwoman of the festival committee said.
A sidewalk art contest will be held on the north side of the Square.
“The parade is free and it really gives people a taste of what’s to come during the rest of the week,” Gammon said.
The Youth Culture Day’s workshops for children and the dance teams start at 10 a.m. with registration beginning at 9:30 a.m. The children rotate through stations and interact with the dancers through games and dance. The children receive a passport when they register for the dancers to sign as the children pass through their stations. Children should bring a sack lunch to eat from noon to 1 p.m. or parents can take their children to Story Book Park for the free lunch, co-sponsored by the Burley Public Library.
“We get a lot of feedback from parents who are excited about the Youth Culture day,” Gammon said. “Many people don’t get to travel the world, but they can come to these events and have the interaction and experiences.”
Meeting the dancers from these countries, minus the government agendas and politics, shows that people everywhere “are really more alike than different,” Young said.
“There are good people around the world regardless of politics,” she said.
The workshops will resume from 1 to 3 p.m.
Each year the dance teams stay at the home of Mini-Cassia families and local individuals and businesses donate $20,000 to $25,000 to bring them to Idaho.
Young initially got involved in the festival when her children were young and she took them to the Youth Culture Day.
“They just loved it and it became a family tradition,” Young said, who went on to host dance teams at their family home.
“The best part of the interaction was having people from around the world stay in our home,” Young said.
Generally, Gammon said, one member of the dance team speaks English but sometimes “there are a lot of charades.”
Google translator has also been valuable, she said.
Often at first, family members may feel hesitant about having the strangers in their home, Young said, but by the end of the week, everyone is friends and often families stay in touch with the dancers after the week is over.
The dancers will also perform outreach shows for the senior centers during the week.
“We also take the time to take the dance teams around so they can see the sights while they are here, and they can experience our culture,” Gammon said.