The center court at the Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee resounded with joyful clapping Sunday as the Chorale Ensemble of Second Baptist Church of Elgin regaled a crowd with gospel music.
Organizers of the first D300 Multicultural Festival, an event celebrating the cultural diversity of Community Unit Community Unit District 300, had their own reasons to cheer and clap Sunday.
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"This has been an overwhelming first year for an event," Superintendent Michael Bregy said. "We're a very diverse school district. One of the challenges we have as a school district is incorporating that diversity, because it's so different in each area. So an event like this actually helps pull us together.
The gospel music is one of several performances that took place during the fest. Tables along the mall's corridors represented countries that have contributed to the district's diversity. Poland and Greece were represented. So was Mexico.
Carpentersville's Perry Elementary School "adopted" Jamaica. Their display included postcards created by students describing characteristics of Jamaica, such as its beaches.
Assistant Principal Brittany Porsche said each grade worked on a different project, with second graders singing a Bob Marley song for a video that was played at the table. Students also created colorful percussion instruments, including drums, maracas and timbrels.
Patricia Mejia, family school liaison at Parkview Elementary School in Carpentersville, wore a colorful red and white costume from the Andean Highlands of Ecuador. Her table was particularly attractive to children because she was offering sweets.
"You know the little kids, they love candies," she said.
Some schools in the district have held diversity nights, but Sunday was the first time the entire district celebrated its diversity.
"It's really cool," said Mitzy Duran, a 14-year-old Dundee-Crown High School student who contributed a dance from Argentina to the event. "It is really fun that other people get to know about different cultures." Duran, whose parents are from Mexico, described the district as "a big family."
The idea of a multicultural fest first came from the African American Parent Advisory Committee.
"Community Unit District 300 over these last 10 years has gone through a major transition with the influx of all the different cultures into the district, and we just wanted an opportunity to bring everybody together," said festival Chairman Paul Dodson.
"I think (this is) a really good thing for everybody to learn the different cultures in the district," said parent Jorge Garcia, who lives in Gilberts. "We live in a multicultural world."