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updated: 7/9/2013 11:41 PM

Wheaton fest to celebrate diversity

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Aspiring world travelers, save your money. Wheaton's Community Relations Commission is throwing a free celebration Thursday that promises to take you to all seven continents without leaving the confines of Memorial Park.

The "Wheaton World Tour: Celebrate Our Diversity," event begins at 6 p.m. and will be immediately followed by the Wheaton Municipal Band's 8 p.m. concert, during which the band will play music from around the world.

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The event will feature food from Taiwan, France and Mongolian stir-fry and entertainers including belly dancers, Burundi and Rwandan performers in native dress and international performer, educator and composer Yin Han, who plays the Er Hu.

Joy Wilcox of the Wheaton Public Library will present a 30-minute storytelling program called "Tales from Around the World." This program coincides with the library's summer reading program, "Have Book -- Will Travel,"

"We've only got two hours for this inaugural event so each performance will be like little 15-minute whirlwinds of culture," said Community Relations Commission member Laurie Swanson. "This is our first time doing anything like this so we hope to make it at least an annual event and grow and expand from there and highlight different ethnicities and the immigrant journey in Wheaton."

The event will include a number of kids cultural activities, too. Children will travel to different tables, representing the seven continents, playing games, doing crafts and learning what makes our community diverse as they have their "passports" stamped.

The commission began in the 1960s during a time when diversity was a major local issue, she said. After a hiatus, the group has reformed to celebrate the city's cultural variety.

"People think of Wheaton and don't often think diverse," she said. "But it really has become that way and I think we're better for it."

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