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Children’s festival in State College has global feel

Buthainah Althowaini dresses Emily Baxter and Evan Baxter, 9, in traditional Saudi Arabian clothes during the International Children’s Festival hosted by Global Connections on Sunday, April 6, 2014, at State College Area High School.
Buthainah Althowaini dresses Emily Baxter and Evan Baxter, 9, in traditional Saudi Arabian clothes during the International Children’s Festival hosted by Global Connections on Sunday, April 6, 2014, at State College Area High School. CDT photo

Penn State student Patsy Orteza first tried the traditional Philippine tinikling dance when she was in third grade.

On Sunday, she was showing people of all different cultures how it is done.

The booth of Philippines natives was one of about 30 representing different countries at the annual International Children’s Festival on Sunday at the State College Area High School South Building.

Orteza said it has been a while since she last tried the dance, which involves dancers moving their feet through two bamboo poles as two other people rhythmically tap them together and back on the floor.

She didn’t know what to expect when the day started, but she said she had a great time. It gave her memories of her native country after having come to the United States to attend Penn State.

“It makes me think of home,” she said. “It’s really nice.”

The event is a way to expose people to other cultures, but it also functions as a fundraiser for Global Connections, Executive Director Merrill David said.

Global Connections is an organization that promotes cultural diversity though community events and gatherings.

She said that events like the one Sunday are a great chance to meet people from other countries because they give people an opportunity to ask questions and get exposure to those cultures.

“These programs and events are an opportunity to engage and interact and learn about people from other countries,” she said.

The event cost $10 for a family or $5 for an individual, with all proceeds going toward funding programs for Global Connections. Each country represented had a booth with crafts and games, and children walked around with passports, getting a stamp if they tried an activity.

There were also several performances in the auditorium, including a taekwondo exhibition in which students broke boards with kicks. The martial art comes from Korea.

Master Sam Chaar, an eighth-degree black belt and former Olympian, held the boards for the students, and he used a belt to break through two boards at the end.

He said there is no trick to the technique — it just comes from practice and intense mental focus, adding that he once broke through a cinder block with just a newspaper.

Chaar is hoping to get some students from his downtown studio, Chaar Martial Arts, to the Olympics one day.

He also enjoyed watching performances from people in other cultures.

“It’s so much diversity,” he said. “You see everybody performing, and everyone has something to offer.”

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