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World In Potsdam Gives Visitors A Hands-on Experience

The seventh annual World in Potsdam diversity festival is more than just musical acts and international dance.  It is also about arts, crafts and activities that cut across a spectrum of cultures.

In between performances on September 23, visitors are encouraged sample international dishes, gaze at the many cultural displays, and take the kids on a world tour without leaving home.

Festival organizer Stephanie Lee says this year’s exhibits and activities are more diverse than in previous years.

“I think that it’s very diverse this year, more so than it’s ever been because of the inclusion of people from different cultures and different backgrounds,” she says. “We have things that are represented here that weren’t here in the past.”

Among the highlights:

“The Heritage Grist Mill” display, Market St.  Details the restoration of the Harison-Morley Grist Mill in the Village of Morley by the members of the Heritage Grist Mill Association.  In the 19th century, gristmills were used to grind grain into flour to make animal feed and corn meal.

“Life Skills on the Land,” Ives Park.  Bob Stevens of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne will set up a teepee and give a presentation on Native Americans’ reliance on the land for everyday needs such as food, clothing and shelter.

“He will be showing how people used to survive on the land and the way they do things differently today, like how they use all different parts of their environment,” Lee says.

Students from Clarkson University’s American Indian Student Engineering Society (AISES) will teach words and phrases in the languages of the tribes represented by the students.

“Japanese Fish Print,” Market St.  This traditional Japanese art form is used to help celebrate the first fish ever caught by a child.  Children who bring a fish of at least six inches in length can have their fish placed on paper, where Midori Keogh will write, in Japanese, the child’s name, type of fish, the day and location of its capture. When finished, the work becomes a souvenir that is suitable for framing.

“Windows on the World,” window displays and tables, various locations.  Many groups and organizations will set up exhibits to give visitors some insight into another country or culture.

Exhibits representing Barbados, Canada, China, Indonesia, Ireland, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands and South Africa will be on display, as will a table on the “French Influence on the Seaway Valley.”  Four tables, detailing the Asian-American, African-American, Hispanic-American and Caribbean-American cultures, are part of “The Changing Populations of the U.S.” exhibit.

Arts and Crafts, Demonstrations and Food, various locations.  Includes a display from the Friends of the Gibson Gallery, artwork by students of the Lawrence Avenue and A.A. Kingston schools and banners created by schoolchildren at the Salmon River School.

One of the more interesting art displays will come from Ann Burnham, who will be making what she calls “Eco People.”

“She will be using leftover items and materials to make these exhibits,” says Lee.  “One of the things she will be using, which I think is kind of fun, are the old Zenith 100 computers from Clarkson.  I’ve given her two of them.  She takes them apart and uses those parts to create Eco People.”

African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, Italian, Japanese, Polish and Amish crafts will also be on display.

Other events include a medieval jousting exhibition and display of medieval crafts, rickshaw races and chariot rides, which are sponsored by the Sigma Chi and Zeta Nu fraternities at Clarkson to raise funds for charity.

If seeing so many displays leaves one hungry, there will be many different opportunities to sample international cuisine.  A Taste of India restaurant will put on an Indian buffet.  Three area businesses will offer “A Taste of France,” with food tasting and entertainment in a sidewalk café atmosphere. Students in Patty Moosbrugger’s French class at Potsdam High School will be making crepes.  Giorgi’s restaurant will be preparing French pastry.

The Potsdam Co-Op is hosting their annual Open House from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Events include food tasting, cider making and entertainment.

Children’s Activities, various locations. A day-long schedule of activities will keep children busy and having fun, all with the idea of cultural diversity. Kids can have their faces painted; make Islamic name buttons, Hispanic kites and international paper dolls; listen to Native American storytelling at the “Reading Teepee”; take in a morning movie; test their agility on the obstacle course or participate in a piñata party.

Prior to the festival, kids and their parents can pick up “Children’s Passports” beginning September 20.  Like the real thing, they can go from “country” to “country” and have their passports stamped. Before taking the passports home as a souvenir of the day, children can fill out a special insert inside the passport for a chance to win a gift certificate from Tomorrow’s Toys.

Lee has played a part in organizing the festival for the last six years. But, she says, this year’s version is the best of them all.

“I just think that it’s much better than it has been,” Lee says.  “Each year, it becomes larger and better. Not just in quantity, but quality as well.”

The World in Potsdam Diversity Festival is co-sponsored by Clarkson University, SUNY Potsdam, the Village of Potsdam and the Sweetgrass Foundation.

For more information, please contact Mary Theis, chair 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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