If one thing could bring students together this weekend, other than the Blue-Green Rivalry game, it was CultureFest.
The Rio de Janeiro Carnival-themed festival, put on by the Cross Cultural Centers, showcased a variety of student talent through arts and crafts, fresh food and drinks, dance routines and musical performances.
The day would go long, running from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and for the 32 student-run booths participating, it would stretch even further after prep work, setup and takedown were all accounted for.
Civil engineering sophomore Oscar Sandoval, who worked Lambda Theta Phi’s booth selling elotes, said they came out at about 9:30 a.m.
“There were already a lot of friendly faces out though,” Sandoval said. “So it’s been good.”
Most students running booths brought up how friendly the entire atmosphere was, often adding that it may have been because CultureFest was designed to be a sharing experience.
“I’m here to support everybody else — to see the nice differences in our cultures… and I’m happy to be involved,” child development senior Laura Alvarez said.
The event was filled with performances from different cultural organizations, including dance routines by the Korean American Student Association, bellydancing instructor Majida Fk and Mexican folk dance group Imagen Y Espíritu Ballet Folklórico de Cal Poly, as well as musical performances by the Arab Music Ensemble and Samba Loca.
Food and drink were heavily emphasized as an important way for different cultural organizations to share a little bit more of themselves.
“It’s one of the few times we can get cultural food in SLO,” said sociology junior Rito Yi, working the Omega Xi Delta booth selling chicken bowls.
Alvarez, working the Lambda Theta Alpha booth, which sold orange and lemon aguas frescas this year, explained that they did so to show culinary diversity from their ethnic group.
“It’s good for Cal Poly to know that we have drinks in our culture, too,” Alvarez said. “Not just food.”
Psychology senior Wesley Choy, who worked the Thai-Vietnamese Student Association’s booth selling Thai tea, explained that their cultural club has a specific emphasis on food. Their members come together to share recipes for popular meals, including pho and hot pots, using some of their organization’s funds to purchase ingredients.
“We teach (club) members how to cook,” Choy said. “And then we bond over the food.”
Choy said the Thai-Vietnamese Student Association sticks to serving Thai tea at public events because they know it’s well liked and they want to give people a chance to try authentic renditions of it.
The Chinese Cultural Club’s fried doughnuts were also intended to bring a genuine cultural sample to Cal Poly, with a sweet twist. Philosophy sophomore Alex Chiang, who worked at the booth, explained that the doughnuts are usually served with rice porridge — and less sugar — as a common Chinese breakfast.
“It’s something casual, but with a lot of culture,” Chiang said.
Civil engineering junior Andrea Look, who worked the Chi Delta Theta booth selling cream cheese wontons, explained that sharing the wontons at CultureFest every year has become a tradition for them.
“I’m not sure why it started with wontons,” Look said, “other than they’re really delicious.”
For others, the food of the day was meant to be witty. History sophomore Sean Leavey, working the Student California Teachers Association’s booth, explained that they chose to showcase candied apples as a play off the teacher’s apple adage.
Other organizations used the day as a bonding experience. Food science junior Cam Clay, working the Black Student Union’s booth selling mixed-fruit lemonade, explained that not only the food, but the entire event, was a good way for students to promote cross-cultural bonding.
Clay said the Black Student Union acts as a safe space for him and his fellow group members.
“We enjoy each other’s company,” Clay said. “It’s like a family away from home.”
Specific events like CultureFest allow them to branch out and form relationships with other cultural organizations, Clay said.
Outside of sharing food, many said that CultureFest was important for showing the growing level of Cal Poly’s diversity.
“It brings everyone together,” said electrical engineering freshman Eden Rabishaw, who worked the Cal Poly Pride Center’s painting booth. “Everyone’s celebrating each other’s culture.”
Choy explained that when he first came to Cal Poly, CultureFest was significantly smaller — composed of about 10 booths off campus at Santa Rosa Park. Watching it grow has been rewarding for him.
“It puts minorities on the map,” Choy said. “It lets us represent our culture, and shows that Cal Poly is a very diverse place … and I love to see (CultureFest) getting bigger every year.”
Biomedical senior Tanner Quon, who worked the Omega Xi Delta booth selling chicken bowls, summed up the experience.
“We get to help out our organization, make some money for ourselves, enjoy some chicken, have some fun, enjoy some culture,” Quon said.