Erika Garcia leads a performance by the Caldwell-based Danza Azteca Tonatiuh. “Everything we do, everything we’re wearing, has a meaning,” Garcia told the crowd Saturday. “For Aztecs, this is a form of prayer.” (The Enterprise/Kristine de Leon)

ONTARIO – Killarney potatoes beckoned visitors to the Irish tent at the 19th annual Global Village Festival Saturday at Lions Park.

Meanwhile in the Indian tent, visitors crowded around to hear about the sacred status of cows in the Hindu religion.

On the performance stage, Erika Garcia, a dancer with the Danza Azteca Tonatiuh, reminded spectators that what they were watching – from the feathered headdresses to the conch shell trumpet she blew at the end of the performance – had a special meaning to the Aztecs. 

Held the first Saturday in June each year, the festival was founded as a way to raise money for the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce and the Four Rivers Cultural Center as well as the local groups that participate. 

“What we have in the valley is a strong, ethnically diverse community,” said John Breidenbach, the chamber’s CEO. “This is just a celebration for them all to come together – and it works.” 

The event is also a reflection of the region’s demographics, he added. Over the years the Dutch and German villages faded away from the festival as their respective groups aged, Breidenbach said. Newcomers, such as those from India who participated for the first time this year, have stepped in. 

Attendance Saturday was “probably over 2,000 throughout the day” Breidenbach said. There were 13 booths, including nine tents representing the different global villages. 

“We really emphasize that whatever they do has to be educational and it has to be authentic,” he added. 

Cultural organizations interested in participating in future events should contact the chamber. Breidenbach encourages interested groups to first attend the event and sit in on Global Village committee meetings to get a feel for the festival’s flavor. 

Reporter Yadira Lopez: yadira@malheurenterprise.com or 541-473-3377.

Enterprise photos by Kristine de Leon

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