AddThis Social Bookmark Button

International Street Fair Is Again A Sign Of Blacksburg's Diversity

By Kristen Mankosa
May 10, 2010

College Avenue in Blacksburg was closed to traffic on a recent Saturday afternoon as rows of booths lined the street on either side. International student clubs were proudly displaying their country’s flags, culture and food.

For anyone afoot that afternoon, the overpowering smell of chicken, coconuts, duck and other foreign foods was hard to miss. Music resonated along the street, as colorful performers danced to traditional music from their respective countries.

For those new to the event, this was the 51st annual Virginia Tech International Street Fair hosted by the Counsel of International Student Organizations and the Cranwell International Center.

Police Officer Mark Haynie said that foot traffic for the fair is usually around 3,000 to 4,000.

Maureen Deisinger, one of the coordinators of the event, said that by the end of the day, the police estimated about 10,000 people attended the fair this year. Fifty years ago, the street fair was more along the lines of a small, international potluck dinner.

The fair now stretches from the intersection of Draper Road and College Avenue, across the walkway of Squires Student Center and stops at the University Bookstore.

The sound of bells, the constant cries of “Bubble Tea – free samples!” mixed with the music of Spain, India and Vietnam to create the exciting atmosphere.

For some students, this was their first time at the fair. Khadidja (ha-dee-sha) Dakar and Assa Balayara were in the U.S. to improve their English and to attend a western university through Virginia Tech’s Language Culture Institute. They were representing their home countries in Africa and promoting the improvement of women and workers in their fields. Brightly dressed and with large smiles, they happily unrolled a large poster scattered with facts and pictures to explain their homeland to someone who has never been to Africa before.

The street fair hosted a variety of dancers, food, cultures – and dragons. The Vietnamese Student Association had two, very large dragons at their booth. Under the teeth and scales of one of the dancing beasts was graduate student Vinh To. He explained that the costume represented a mythical creature of Vietnam, a half dragon, half lion.

Jiyeon Kim was representing South Korea and was dressed in a traditional ornate pink and green gown. Kim has only been in the United States for eight months and was excited to be at the fair. Kim said “It’s very festive! I didn’t expect that there are so many people here!”

The crowd was in agreement – the fair was an exciting place to be, and a great time to experience other cultures and countries that one might not normally see. The crowd was energized and happy. The fair went off without incident.

Haynie said that only two Blacksburg and two Virginia Tech officers were needed at the fair. “I’ve worked this for several years,” Haynie said, “and I can’t think of one problem we’ve ever had.”