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World In Potsdam Festival Returns September 23

Live music, lively dance and dozens of demonstrations and exhibits will add up to a global experience at the seventh annual World in Potsdam Festival on Saturday, September 23.

Local residents and students from SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University will converge on downtown Potsdam to enjoy a day of multicultural activities all aimed at celebrating and sharing the unique cultures represented in the area. From samplings of international music and demonstrations of traditional dance to face painting, hair beading and piñata parties for the kids, there is something for everyone.

“Each year, we try to do something a little bit different to broaden and deepen the community’s understanding of diversity,” says Mary E. Theis, director of International Students at Clarkson University, chairperson of the festival.

A ‘good mix’

This year, the festival will welcome a number of student groups along with professional dancers and musicians who will perform onstage in the heart of Market Street. 

Making a return appearance at the festival is the ALLNATIONS Dance Company. This New York City-based ensemble has performed in more than 50 countries since 1967. Ethnic dancers from all around the world present their own cultures through music and dance and unite with each other to perform dances from Ukraine, Mexico, China, Ireland and the Philippines to name a few.

The hip-hop culture is represented by Full Circle, whose performances encompass all of its aspects, including, dance, DJs, graffiti art and fashion. Formed in 1992, the group has performed all over the U.S. and Japan and has done video work for Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson; performed at the 1999 WNBA All-Star Game in New York; and performed with Will Smith at the “America’s Millennium” celebration in Washington, D.C. on New Year’s Eve, which was televised on CBS.

New to this year’s festival is the Spencerville Legion Pipe Band, a community-based, family oriented group that draws members from Leeds and Grenville Counties in Ontario and St. Lawrence County. The group has been successful in several competitions including a recent first place showing in the Grade Four category at the North-Eastern USA Championships.

Potsdam’s Akua Dance Troupe is a group of dancers, drummers, singers, artists, farmers and others living in Northern New York. Akua, whose name is a West African word meaning “sweet messenger,” presents a variety of indigenous and African diasporic cultures through movement, ritual, and rhythm arts such as West African drumming, maculele, capoeira and Middle Eastern dance

Other international performances include Latin American music from Norte Tropical and a taste of 18th-century French music and dress from Le Nouvelle France.

“We’re excited because we have a really good mix of groups coming from outside the area and local people who have a lot of talent,” says Theis.  It’s amazing how much diversity we have right here in this community, both in our student groups and in people who live in our community.”

Diversity Discussion

Prior to the festival, on Thursday, Sept. 21, inspirational author and nationally recognized speaker Marlon Smith will deliver a presentation at 7 p.m. in SUNY Potsdam’s Knowles Hall Conference Center. During “The Many Sides of People—Making the Most of Living in a Diverse Community” Smith will share his ideas on commitment to the diversity within the Potsdam community. Smith’s talk will be followed by a community discussion.

‘Guerilla’ tactics

When is theater not theater? When the audience least suspects it. That’s the idea behind the Covenant Players’ “Guerilla Theatre.”

“They are interesting because they will perform among the crowd,” says Theis.  They’ll be doing impromptu skits to get people thinking about the idea of diversity.”

Diversity will also be in fashion, so to speak, through African and Asian fashion shows.

“It’s not just to model the clothing,” Theis says.  “There will be people talking about their cultures and explaining why people dress the way they do.”

There will be just as much going on away from the main stage.  Hands-on arts and crafts include demonstrations from China, Japan, India and Italy, as well as crafts from the African-American, Hispanic, Amish, Caribbean and Native American cultures and from the Islamic and Jewish religions. Medieval crafts are also on display.

Jousting exhibitions will recall a more gallant time gone by. Chariot rides and rickshaw races let festivalgoers ride in an entirely different set of wheels.

A spectrum of events is available this year for children, including a morning movie, face painting, hair beading and a piñata party.  Kids will enjoy making Islamic name buttons, Hispanic paper kites and flowers and international paper dolls.  They will also learn about Native American culture through the “Reading TeePee,” obtain “Life Skills on the Land” and learn to speak indigenous languages.

The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 23.

“The World in Potsdam” Diversity Festival is cosponsored by Clarkson University, SUNY Potsdam, the Village of Potsdam and the Sweetgrass Foundation. All events are free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact Mary Theis, chairperson of the World in Potsdam Festival, at 315-268-7970 or visit the festival website at

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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