Park’s shade makes for a cool EPO XPO

Learn why the 2012 East Portland Exposition moved south to a new location; and see how this cultural fair entertained and delighted visitors …

Rikki Moua, Luna Her, and Kanee Her – all of the Nkauj Hmoob Ywj Pheej dance group, representing the Hmong people – prepare to perform a traditional dance.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In its fourth year, the 2012 East Portland Exposition (EPO XPO) was scaled back to a one-day event on July 21.

“Yes, it is a little more compact,” organizer Mark White, President of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association, told East Portland News at the event.

EPO XPO’s creator and organizer, Mark White, smiles, as he sees guests coming into this year’s event.

“And, we’ve moved from Ed Benedict Park south, here, to Earl Boyles Park,” White said. “By making it a one-day event, and changing the location, we were able to save thousands of dollars – and that’s important, because fundraising these days can be quite challenging.”

Earl Boyles Park also offered more parking, he added. “But what’s best about being here is the venue itself. All these beautiful trees lend a very fluid and organic feeling to the event. This space really serves our purpose and intent, bring people together.”

Masters Of Ceremonies Renault “Polo” Catalani, of the City of Portland Office of Human Relations, gets giggles from these performers with his warm and witty introduction.

Sala Kannan helps chef Shyam Dausoa of Chez Dodo prepare “A taste of Mauritian Paradise” – food inspired by that island nation, off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean.

In addition to the continuous widely-varying ethnic performances on the main stage, this year’s EPO XPO again featured Asia-Pacific, Kathmandu, Haitian, and Russian “villages” – each providing unique activities.

“We’ve also had a good turnout of exhibitors,” observed White. “These are mostly nonprofit organizations, and governmental entities – and also, some business organizations are here to meet people.”

Representing outer East Portland’s large and growing Russian-speaking community are Vladimir Zanin, Galina Zanin, and Olga Rigucci, who offer guests traditional celebration treats.

Lori Boisen and Tammi Hawkins from the “Division Midway Alliance Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative” ask visitors to take an area survey regarding retail shopping in the area.

A favorite among visitors was the food vendors. “We’ve narrowed them down to four this year, as we situate our selves in this new location.”

The reason that White and dozens of volunteers work all year to put on this event, he said, is that “East Portland has become the center of diversity within the City of Portland.  Many of our cultural newcomers settle here in outer East Portland.”

Performers gather for a group photo at this year’s EPO XPO.

Cultural diversity helps “brand” this area of mid-County, White added. “It is important that we recognize that and embrace this – and to demonstrate that diversity is a positive benefit to the area.”

White said he’s already looking forward to the 2013 outer East Portland festival. “I expect that people from our different cultural communities will be part of the planning and design of EPO EXO next year.”

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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