Celebrating Diversity in Skokie
Festival of Cultures brings the world to one Skokie park
I've lived in Skokie forever. My forever, anyway.
The village has undergone change in the last few decades. The population has shifted from G.I.s returning from WW II and setting up housekeeping in the suburbs, to an astonishing diversity of immigrant families seeking the same American dream.
On my block my neighbors are Armenian, Indian, Russian, Filipino, Korean, African-American, Pakistani, Greek, Chinese...you get the idea.
Like most communities, Skokie has its share of issues - but the government and residents decided not to let our cultural differences be one of the problems.
Skokie celebrates its Festival of Cultures every spring. This year 36 different nationalities and cultural groups had informational booths at the festival, and dozens of groups celebrated their cultures with dance and music performances.
Where is Skokie, anyway?
Skokie is a suburb of Chicago. The U.S. Census Bureau says that about 65,000 people call Skokie home - a city anywhere else, but a village immediately north of Chicago.
Back in the 1920s, when Chicago was a center for the movie industry, downtown Skokie was used as setting for Western films - there were even hitching posts.
Times have changed. Skokie's most famous appearance in the news was in the 1970s when neo-Nazis wanted to march through our community, which has a significant Holocaust-survivor population. The march never happened, but we are now the home of the Illinois Holocaust Museum, designed by architect Stanley Tigerman.
Getting the kids involved
This year the Festival of Cultures' "Passport" booklet introduced us to artists from each of the nations and cultures at the fair. The children dashed from booth to booth, collecting the stamps from each nation for their passports. And learned something about every group along the way.
While I didn't collect the passport stamps - I did stop by every booth, from Armenia to Turkey, Israel to Japan, and got to know my neighbors and a bit about their native lands. One of the best parts of the festival is the food stands - the best way to get to know people is by sharing a meal and learning to appreciate their native cuisines.
Around the Festival of CulturesClick thumbnail to view full-size
The many cultures of Skokie - Our people are proud to show off their many heritagesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Learn about these cultures
All of the people participating in the Skokie Festival of Cultures are local residents - proud to be Americans and proud to show off their rich cultural backgrounds. It was a joy speaking to all of them - whether they hid from my camera or shared a big smile.