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Lowell students celebrate school community's many cultures at fest

WHEATON – Visitors to Lowell Elementary School in Wheaton on Friday tasted German marzipan, listened to Japanese songs and watched Nepali dances – all without leaving the school walls.

Lowell held its fifth annual Culture Fest featuring a variety of cultural tables, foods and performances.

Culture Fest is a representation of the backgrounds of Lowell families, so everything at the fest came from the school community, said Andrea Koziarz, parent and event organizer.

"Anything from music, song, food – you name it – we're trying to keep it from Lowell," Koziarz said.

The fest featured 10 cultural tables representing Germany, Cuba, Venezuela, Ghana, Hungary, Nepal, Burma, Ethiopia, Italy and Lithuania. Each was manned by a Lowell family of that cultural background.

Koziarz, whose mother was born in Germany, ran the German table with her family. They served German wurst and marzipan while wearing traditional Bavarian clothing.

"I try to do something different every year so they (the students) can get something new," she said.

Like most of the other tables, the German table also featured photographs, books with information and special objects related to the culture. At her family's table, Koziarz had a nutcracker on display.

This is Koziarz's third year organizing Culture Fest. She was helped by English Language Learner teacher Jo Turner, social worker Beth White and parent Evelyn Pacino-Sanguinetti. Lowell families volunteered to show off their heritage with a cultural table, or they also could help the event in a different way through the fest's food table.

School families were welcome to cook a dish for an international potluck sampling at the international food table. While organizers bought a few dishes using a small event budget, food also was donated by India Palace Restaurant in Wheaton, and water came from Jewel.

The fest also included craft, game and dress-up tables.

During Culture Fest, which lasted from 6 until 8 p.m., Lowell second-graders sang songs from Japan and Ghana they learned in music class. Three students performed a Nepali dance.

And although organizers planned to have about 20 fourth- and fifth-graders demonstrate a Greek dance they learned in P.E. class, about 40 actually came to the event to perform. All student performers volunteered to be a part of Culture Fest.

Koziarz said she plans to help organize the fest again next year. She originally got involved when her son was in kindergarten because of her own experiences as a first-generation American on her mother's side, she said.

"As big as America is, sometimes a lot of children aren't aware of a lot of cultures from around the world," Koziarz said.

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