Celebrating diversity through food

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Bonnyville’s many cultures are coming together over a love of food.

On Family Day, Monday, Feb. 20, the Bonnyville Community Church will be hosting their International Food Extravaganza.

“It’s very much one of those events to really recognize and celebrate our cultural diversity, all of the ethnicities we have in our community, and to be able to come together by having different foods from around the globe,” explained organizer Andrea Yaremie. “Also, having it on Family Day, to be able to bring our community’s family, friends, and everyone together to have a great time.”

The event has been held annually for over 15 years. It typically attracts close to 600 people from across the region, and as far away as Lloydminster and Edmonton.

So far, confirmed booths include Trinidad and Tobago, Mexican, First Nations, French, Ukrainian, Canadian, Indian/Sri-Lankan, and a favourite of many – Filipino. They’re also looking into bringing in some new ethnicities such as Jamaican and South African.

“We’re looking at having 10 this year. We’re really excited about that because it’s the most we’ve had,” noted Yaremie.

She added, “I think it’s a reminder of just how small our world really is. When I moved here in 2000 it wasn’t as diverse as it is now. I just think, from a global diversity perspective and how much Bonnyville has grown, to be able to attract people to our area from so many different places, it’s really exciting. It speaks to how much people are moving throughout the world… Usually everyone’s just trying to make their life better and experience something new.”

Each booth is run by a community member able to represent that culture, whether they’ve immigrated from there or it’s their family’s background. Those representatives head up the cooking of a traditional meal, and volunteers are brought in to help with serving.

Guests just need to show up with an appetite and adventurous spirit for trying new food.

“I think it’s just of those events that really does bring the community together, and what better way then to go enjoy some delicious food. From a price point, you can’t get anything of this quality and diversity for anything close to what the tickets are.”

With a focus on celebrating Bonnyville’s cultural diversity and bringing the community together, the event also serves as a fundraiser for a local organization. All of the profits made from the International Food Extravaganza are donated to a charity or not-for-profit.

“The Bonnyville Community Church, their motto is to love, serve, give, so this fits right in to being able to give back to the community.”

“It’s really designed to just totally give back and put on a service for the community,” Yaremie explained, noting they’re still looking for this year’s beneficiary.

“If any not-for-profits or charities are in need, we’re asking them to reach out. They can reach out directly to me and then I will bring that back to Pastor Ken and the leadership team. Depending on how many we get, then we’ll choose the one to get the financial support.”

The International Food Extravaganza will run from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the C2 field house on Feb. 20. Anyone planning on attending the event is encouraged to purchase their tickets ahead of time at the Bonnyville Community Church, Bonnyville Dairy Queen, town administration office, or the Cold Lake Home Hardware.

“It’s such a unique opportunity to be able to experience different cultures right in our own back yard. I really encourage people to come out. It’s such a phenomenal event and a great Family Day wrap-up to the weekend.”

Local charities who would like to be considered as recipients of the funds raised at this year’s event can contact Andrea Yaremie at 780-812-8288.

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