SCOW, school system host 7th annual International Celebration in Wallingford next week

WALLINGFORD — The Spanish Community of Wallingford and the Wallingford Public Schools will host the town’s 7th annual free and immersive International Celebration on Wednesday, May 24.  

“This celebration highlights cultures that are represented in our town,” said Sara Fallahi, one of the celebration’s organizers and a bilingual teacher at E.C. Stevens Elementary School. “And we have a rich diversity in Wallingford, and it is so important to give families an avenue to educate and share about their cultures with the greater community because that enhances the community and shows our strength to our diversity and reminds us who we are as a community.”

Daisy Lopez, the program director at SCOW, said the collaborative festival represents Wallingford’s substantial diversity through displays of various cultures. Guests and families will be given a passport to travel from table to table and learn about a new culture. 

“It’s a great time,” Lopez said. “It really is very educational, and it’s wonderful to show up and just lend that support to the families that came out because, you know, we worked really hard on their displays. And they’re very proud to show where they come from, and their traditions and their pictures. So it’s really nice to show the community what Wallingford is made up of, and we’re really appreciative of everyone that comes out to show that support.”

Through the International Celebration, families, staff and students can represent their national heritage in various ways. Participants can immerse attendees in their culture through maps, posters with informational images, typical currency, traditional clothing, cultural artifacts, musical performances and food. 

Not only will community members gain a global perspective of different lived experiences worldwide, but Fallahi also said several of her students and their families would have the opportunity to connect with their identity at the cultural celebration.

“They get to be the experts in this platform,” Fallahi said. “They will get to teach and share, and there is pride in that. They feel proud to be from different countries, to teach about different languages, and can celebrate who they are and their identity … My younger students are participating and are doing so alongside their family and can share and have this memory of showcasing their culture to their classmates and their community as a family.”

Lopez said some of the countries that will be represented at this year’s International Celebration are Ecuador, Mexico, Turkey, Colombia, Morocco. China, Peru, Italy, Dominican Republic, India and Pakistan, to name a few.

Paula Erardi, one of the event’s organizers and a Spanish teacher in the World Language Department at Lyman Hall High School, said the International Celebration is an excellent opportunity for attendees to find commonalities with other members of the Wallingford community who share a culture while bringing exposure to new countries and experiences as well. 

“I think it is important for the community because you find that you have more in common with people than you realize,” Erardi said. “And I think that just creates more awareness, understanding, compassion, empathy, and all those good things. And it’s the world we live in. We have people from all over the place … I think it fosters greater understanding and appreciation for other cultures.”  

This year’s theme is “Holidays and Traditions.” Participants are encouraged to incorporate holidays and traditions celebrated in their respective countries into their presentations. Erardi said the International Celebration committee comes together every year to pick a theme for the annual event that includes all the cultures represented. 

Fallahi explained that the committee chose this year’s theme because “Holidays and traditions are an important piece of every culture, and often when we learn about different countries and cultures, the traditions are the first thing we learn. But having a person teach us from that culture makes the experience so much more meaningful because we can learn about the specific traditions and what that means to the community.”

The annual community celebration of the diversity in Wallingford draws around 800 to 1,000 guests, according to Erardi. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee members canceled the event, and in 2021, they held it virtually. Last year’s celebration was the first time the event took place in person after two years. Erardi explained that the annual event resembles “Disney World” and is like Wallingford’s version of a “happy place.”

“It really is a feel-good event where everyone is learning from each other,” Erardi said. “Everyone gets a chance to be a teacher. It’s such a beautiful thing when you’re teaching about yourself and your family and your culture and food.”

The event will take place May 24 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at SCOW, 284 Washington St.


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