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Celebrating Diversity in Skokie

Updated on November 4, 2014
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Hope Saidel is co-owner of Golly Gear, a bricks-and-mortar and online shop featuring fun, affordable and practical small dog products

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.

A marker -
Skokie, Illinois
get directions

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 Cultures

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Each culture/country's booth flew its flag.It was a beautiful, warm day in Skokie - perfect for a festival.The ladies in the booth representing Thailand made these gorgeous vegetable carvings on the spot. I particularly love the carrots on the right.Local dance troupes performed.Latinos contribute to Skokie's culture.Local restaurants, with food as diverse st Skokie, set up booths to feed the crowd.All that walking and learning and talking makes people hungry.Enjoying a meal and a show.
Each culture/country's booth flew its flag.
Each culture/country's booth flew its flag.
It was a beautiful, warm day in Skokie - perfect for a festival.
It was a beautiful, warm day in Skokie - perfect for a festival.
The ladies in the booth representing Thailand made these gorgeous vegetable carvings on the spot. I particularly love the carrots on the right.
The ladies in the booth representing Thailand made these gorgeous vegetable carvings on the spot. I particularly love the carrots on the right.
Local dance troupes performed.
Local dance troupes performed.
Latinos contribute to Skokie's culture.
Latinos contribute to Skokie's culture.
Local restaurants, with food as diverse st Skokie, set up booths to feed the crowd.
Local restaurants, with food as diverse st Skokie, set up booths to feed the crowd.
All that walking and learning and talking makes people hungry.
All that walking and learning and talking makes people hungry.
Enjoying a meal and a show.
Enjoying a meal and a show.

The many cultures of Skokie - Our people are proud to show off their many heritages

Click thumbnail to view full-size
ArmeniaAssyria (Some people, while proud to show off their native country's culture, were shy about showing their faces.)AssyriaBangladesh. Stamping a child's "passport."Belize. Half shy.Bosnia Herzegovina
Armenia
Armenia
Assyria (Some people, while proud to show off their native country's culture, were shy about showing their faces.)
Assyria (Some people, while proud to show off their native country's culture, were shy about showing their faces.)
Assyria
Assyria
Bangladesh. Stamping a child's "passport."
Bangladesh. Stamping a child's "passport."
Belize. Half shy.
Belize. Half shy.
Bosnia Herzegovina
Bosnia Herzegovina

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.

Continuing our tour of Skokie's world

Click thumbnail to view full-size
BulgariaChina. Showing off the art of China, displayed on scrolls.China. Explaining the pictographic written language of China. I'm afraid I messed up the game after the mini-lesson - I confused the "Turtle" and the "Elephant" signs.CroatiaCubaCzech Republic
Bulgaria
Bulgaria
China. Showing off the art of China, displayed on scrolls.
China. Showing off the art of China, displayed on scrolls.
China. Explaining the pictographic written language of China. I'm afraid I messed up the game after the mini-lesson - I confused the "Turtle" and the "Elephant" signs.
China. Explaining the pictographic written language of China. I'm afraid I messed up the game after the mini-lesson - I confused the "Turtle" and the "Elephant" signs.
Croatia
Croatia
Cuba
Cuba
Czech Republic
Czech Republic

Wandering around the world

Click thumbnail to view full-size
GermanyGreeceHaiti. It took some convincing to get him to smile - but he did!IndiaIndia. Namaste!Indonesia.Indonesia
Germany
Germany
Greece
Greece
Haiti. It took some convincing to get him to smile - but he did!
Haiti. It took some convincing to get him to smile - but he did!
India
India
India. Namaste!
India. Namaste!
Indonesia.
Indonesia.
Indonesia
Indonesia

Circling the world in a weekend

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Ireland - With crafts and games for the children.IsraelJamaicaJapan. With demonstrations of origami (paper-folding) - showing how to make flowers and cranes.Japan. Sofia was delighted to get her name in Japanese characters.Korea
Ireland - With crafts and games for the children.
Ireland - With crafts and games for the children.
Israel
Israel
Jamaica
Jamaica
Japan. With demonstrations of origami (paper-folding) - showing how to make flowers and cranes.
Japan. With demonstrations of origami (paper-folding) - showing how to make flowers and cranes.
Japan. Sofia was delighted to get her name in Japanese characters.
Japan. Sofia was delighted to get her name in Japanese characters.
Korea
Korea

Skokie folk come from all over

Click thumbnail to view full-size
LaosLuxembourgMexicoNorwayPhillipines
Laos
Laos
Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Mexico
Mexico
Norway
Norway
Phillipines
Phillipines

Getting to know the country through the people

Click thumbnail to view full-size
PolandRussia.Slovakia. Showing off the beautifully carved and/or decorated eggs.SlovakiaSwedenThailandThailand. The intricately carved fruits and vegetables, produced on the spot, are works of art.
Poland
Poland
Russia.
Russia.
Slovakia. Showing off the beautifully carved and/or decorated eggs.
Slovakia. Showing off the beautifully carved and/or decorated eggs.
Slovakia
Slovakia
Sweden
Sweden
Thailand
Thailand
Thailand. The intricately carved fruits and vegetables, produced on the spot, are works of art.
Thailand. The intricately carved fruits and vegetables, produced on the spot, are works of art.

Last, but not least

Click thumbnail to view full-size
TibetTurkey. I learned so much about this beautiful country - it's now on my list of "must sees."TurkeyUnited States
Tibet
Tibet
Turkey. I learned so much about this beautiful country - it's now on my list of "must sees."
Turkey. I learned so much about this beautiful country - it's now on my list of "must sees."
Turkey
Turkey
United States
United States

Learn more about our world's cultures

How does your community celebrate diversity?

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    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      Seattle has a rich diversity of neighborhoods that have their own festivals or fairs. The International District festivities are especially exciting.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      What a wonderfully rich cultural community you have in Skokie with plenty of reasons to sit tight and enjoy the offerings there! The Festival of Cultures sounds so embracing, something many other communities could learn from for sure....congratulations on your Imminent feature! One of my favorite cultural activities is attending a Native American Pow Wow. :)

    • allaneaglesham lm profile image

      allaneaglesham lm 4 years ago

      Kind of - we have an international school where we have many nationalities but no real festival.

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      Well we have independent events for each culture such as the Cherry Blossom event in Sakura Square for Japan. But this event in Skokie looks like great fun too!

    • mrdata profile image

      mrdata 4 years ago

      Congrats for yout LOTD and valuable lens!