Cultural diversity celebrated at East Portland Exposition

From colorful pageantry to foods of many lands, see why folks flocked to this great outer East Portland event …

Sunflower Chinese Dance troupe delights the audience at the 2011 East Portland Exposition – it’s part of the entertainment provided by Colored Pencils Art and Culture Council.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The 2011 East Portland Exposition (EPO XPO) is now history, but memories of the event linger on for the many people who attended the annual two-day event. This year it was held July 23 and 23 at Ed Benedict Community Park, off SE Powell Boulevard.

Beautiful summer weather enhanced the event, as did the wide variety of multicultural attractions, exhibitors, and vendors.

Emilio Hernandez enjoys a cool treat at EPO XPO.

With colorful heads of Chinese Lion costumes as a backdrop, kids enjoy crafts in the Asian “Multicultural Share Fair” Village.

The “Multicultural Share Fair” is the focal point of EPO XPO.  It includes culturally-inspired performances, as well as “Villages” hosted by organizations representing the numerous cultural groups in Portland. Each Village featured education as well as interactive activities.

Mark White, founder and coordinator of the East Portland Exposition, says the event has evolved, based on feedback from those attending in past years.

The event’s founder and manager, Mark White – also president of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association – was pleased to see people enjoying the event.

“This is our third year of holding this,” White pointed out.

“One of the big differences this year, due to the response from the folks who came last year, is that overwhelmingly, people were interested in the multicultural part of it.”

So, the Multicultural Share Fair became the central focus of this year’s EPO XPO, White said. “We’ve moved that whole area, and made it part of the main stage and the main focal point. It’s getting a lot more attention than in past years.”

Colored Pencils’ MC Gary Marschke introduces another act.

An Daire Academy of Irish Dance performers clog their way into the hearts of audience members.

And by working with “Colored Pencils Arts Culture Council”, the event features a wide variety of top-notch multicultural entertainment, White added. “They’ve done a wonderful job of bringing interesting and varied acts.”

White says he works almost year-around preparing for and producing the event, but others help him out during the exposition itself. “It’s really impressive; about two dozen volunteers work very long days – 16 to 20 hours a day for two days – to help make this possible. I surely appreciate their effort and support.”

Many community service organizations and governmental agencies exhibit at EPO XPO, as business concerns.

Christine Ayer gets blood pressure screened by Sandi Kruger, a nursing student at OHSU Hospital.

Nick Sauvie, with ROSE Community Development Corporation, introduces the work of their agency to exposition guests.

The event is important to White, he said, because, “Outside of outer East Portland, the City has a reputation of not being very diverse. But, for those who live in East Portland, we know that’s not true. At this event, we celebrate our cultural diversity.”

“A large portion of East Portland’s diversity comes from the numerous cultural newcomers who now call East Portland home – new immigrants and refugees who come to Portland seeking a better life,” White reflected. “With this event, we help welcome them to our community. At the same time, they bring us their rich traditions to help us better relate to neighborhoods that are becoming more diverse.”

There’s lots of active fun for kids every year at the EPO XPO – including these giant inflatable play structures. Volunteer Mike Vander Veen supervises the Giant Slide.

At the International Food Court, guests can choose lunch, dinner, and snacks from cooks of many countries.

Tom Barnes gets ready another dish – representing our own culture: The all-American hot dog.

But, to many visitors, EPO XPO simply provides a day of great family fun.

“I enjoy watching parents see their kids having fun on the giant inflatable bounce houses and slides,” White said. “Everything is free – so money isn’t an issue about coming to enjoy our event.”

And, there’s no reason for anyone to go hungry while visiting , White added. “We have seven food vendors here this year.  There’s only one food vendor that is not culturally inspired – but, when I think about it, his hot dogs and hamburgers are certainly reflective of our American culture!”

Arlene Kimura, Chair of the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association, volunteers to staff the East Portland Neighborhood Office coalition booth.

Terrie Casey with TK Embroidery greets guests at the Midway Business Association exhibit.

Although the attendance was down this year because the outer East Portland “Sunday Parkways” event this year was not held concurrently, White said he was nonetheless encouraged by the attendance this year.

“We plan another great exposition next year!” White grinned.

At the end of each day, guests are treated to a “Movie in the Park”, as part of the East Portland Exposition.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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