Ontario’s Tradition Keepers Folklife Festival is Saturday, earns state award

ONTARIO – A festival to highlight the region’s assorted cultures gained statewide appreciation recently.

The Museum of Natural and Cultural History recognized Four Rivers Cultural Center with its Oregon Stewardship Award for the center’s Tradition Keepers Folklife Festival. 

The daylong festival, which highlights eastern Oregon’s traditional arts and artists, is Saturday at Four Rivers Cultural Center. The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

The festival includes cowboy poetry, silversmithing, rawhide braiding, Paiute basketry, Japanese taiko dancing and Basque dancers. 

Food is also a big part of the festival and those who attend can sample traditional Japanese, Basque and Mexican dishes. 

The Museum of Natural and Cultural History, part of the University of Oregon, created the $1,000 Oregon Stewardship Award in 2018.

“We’re delighted to honor FRCC with this year’s award. The Tradition Keepers Folklife Festival is an outstanding example of heritage stewardship, shining a light on the multiple cultures that shape Oregon’s past, present and future,” said Kristin Strommer, museum director of communications and marketing.

Matt Stringer, the executive director of Four Rivers Cultural Center, said he was “extremely proud to receive the award.”

“I love the idea of everybody in the state knowing of the cultural center rather than just you and I,” said Stringer.

Stringer said the award gives “credibility” to the Ontario center.

“What it says is that you can take an organization, this cultural center, seriously because we have credibility as the depository of information about the history of Japanese Americans, credibility as it relates to our knowledge of native Americans, the Hispanic culture,” said Stringer.

Stringer said local area is enhanced by its diverse cultures. 

 “I think there are a lot of interesting stories we can tell here. They all generate a source of pride,” said Stringer.

Stringer said Saturday marks the second year of the Tradition Keepers Folklife Festival. 

“We had about 700 people attend last year. We are really excited about this event,” said Stringer.

Stringer said people should go because “they are attending a cultural event where they get to see all of the other ethnic groups.”

“They will be educated. They will learn about ancient traditions. They will be entertained. We feel like it is an opportunity for all of our different cultures to spend time together,” said Stringer. 

Stringer said the Tradition Keepers Folklife Festival and the award from Museum of Natural and Cultural History is part of his long-term plan to boost FRCC’s “footprint.” 

“Things like this go a long way toward that,” said Stringer. 

Have a news tip? Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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