When the late Barbara Stewart launched Columbus’ Ethnic Expo in 1984, she wanted it to make a world of difference.

In helping different cultures understand one another.

In assisting different ethnic groups to find common bonds while sharing their diversity with others.

In promoting global harmony in this one little corner of the planet.

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The free-admission downtown international festival gets cooking with 31 food booths Oct. 9 and 10 along First and Washington streets. It will feature live music, children’s activities and an international bazaar.

Columbus’ Elaine Smith acknowledged she was unsure at first the event would last, somewhat like the delectable rack of ribs she often prepares for the event’s African-American food booth. She has prepared that, smoked sausage, collard greens, fried bologna, cornbread and sweet potato pie since the beginning — at founder Stewart’s request.

And most years, she has sold out hours before each day’s closing time.

“It has become a big, family deal,” said Smith of the local By Word of Mouth Catering. “We have since decided that, as long as there is an Ethnic Expo, the Smith family will be involved.”

For one big reason, in her mind. And that involves more than food.

“At my age these days — and I’m 70 now — I have learned a lot about other cultures because of Expo,” Smith said. “There are things I thought I knew, but actually didn’t.

“That includes facts and things about another country or culture’s food, habits or dress. It has become a learning experience that I would not trade for anything.”

Noli Aurellano and his wife, Linda, have organized the Philippines booth for the past five years. Their eggroll-like Lumpia Shanghai is a popular dollar item, and their pork and chicken shish kabobs help them sell out nearly every year. Longaniza, a Filipino sausage, also is on the menu.

“We want to be a part of showcasing the favorite parts of each country,” Noli Aurellano said. “We take great pride in preparing all this.”

Here's what's cooking

Here is a list of Expo food vendors, subject to change before the event, organized by country, vendor and menu:

African American, By Word of Mouth Catering: BBQ ribs, smoked sausage, Hoosier Fried Bologna, collard greens, Sweet Potato Pie, cornbread.

Argentina, Divine Family BBQ: Pork sausage with bun and Chimichurri sauce, smoked brisket and/or pork nachos, spicy chorizo BBQ beans.

Austria, Jay Kiel: German potato salad, schnitzel, reuben, brats, chicken and noodles, baked potato soup, sausage bean chowder, mixed streusel dumplings.

Bavaria, Bavarian Almond Shoppe: Roasted and coated almonds, pecans and cashews.

China, Tasty Express: Chicken Lo Mein; sweet and sour chicken, chicken teriyaki, egg roll, General Tso’s chicken, roast pork fried rice.

China, Columbus Chinese Association: Sweet and sour chicken,  fried rice, fried noodles, General Tso’s chicken, chicken kebab, sweet biscuit, spring roll, crab rangoon.

East Indies, Bar-B-Que Junction: Corn on the cob, rib tips, crab and shrimp balls, ribeye steak with potato, onion and pepper.

French-Canadian, Cobb’s Cajun Cookin’: Shrimp jambalaya, alligator, cajun pork tenderloin, alligator chili, red beans and rice.

Greece, Papageorge’s, Inc.: Greek gyros, chicken gyros, baklava.

Greece, Uncle Zorba’s Greek Foods: Greek plate (choice of meat with rice, salad, pita), Greek gyros, greek chicken, Greek sliced steak, Souvlaki (shish kabob), Greek salad, baklava.

India, Indian Association of Columbus: Vegetable platter,  non-vegetable platter, Indian snacks, chicken fry, poori (wheat flour – fried), dosa (rice batter – fried); chaat (authentic Indian food).

Italy, Steve Manno: Italian sausage, meatballs, hot dogs, lemon shakes, chips, non-alcoholic daiquiris.

Japan, Columbus Japanese Business Association: Breast teriyaki bowl; edamame (green soy beans), yakisoba (stir-fry noodle), inari sushi, ramune, beef bowl.

Mexico, Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Association: Soft taco (beef or black bean), super nacho, walking taco (beef or black beans), chips and cheese, chips and salsa.

Mexico, Su Casa Columbus: Tacos discada (bacon, ham, onions), tamales, salsas (hot pepper/mild), beans, rice, raspada.

Nigeria, Naija Chef: Jollof rice, ewa riro (stewed beans), efo (stewed spinach mix), dodo (friend plantains), chicken peri peri.

Pakistan, Pakistan Association of Columbus: Grilled chicken, samosa, pakora, channa (chick peas) chat, halwa/Pakistani cake, chicken birya.

Philippines, Arnoldo & Linda Aurellano: Lumpia (mini eggroll), pancit (rice noodle), sinangag (fried rice), kabob, adobo (pork)

Philippines, Eduardo’s Restaurant: Lumpia Shanghai, Beef Calderata, pork & chicken shish kabob, panci noodles, fried rice, vegetable fried rice, eggroll, Empanada, Longaniza (Pilipino sweet sausage).

Poland, Babushka’s: Fresh sausage, beer brat sausage, dogs, kraut, cabbage and noodles, pierogiss stuffed cabbage, dumplings, potato pancakes, soup, salad.

Poland, Harrison College: Pierogi with sour cream, cabbage rolls, Polish sausage with onions and peppers, sauerkraut, angel twists (dessert).

South Korea, Columbus Korean Association: Bulgogi, rice, kimchi, vegetable dumpling.

Switzerland, Bartholomew County Shrine Club: Funnel cakes.

Switzerland, Swiss Club of Central Indiana: Swiss chocolates.

Taiwan, Columbus Chinese Association: Sweet and sour chicken; fried rice;, fried noodles, General Tso’s chicken, chicken kebab, sweet biscuit, spring roll, crab rangoon.

Tobago, Roxann Johnson-Bey: Pholourie, roti (curry potatoes, chana, chicken, beef), doubles (curry chana), rice, goat curry, pelau, veggies.

Trinidad & Tobago, Columbus Trinbago Association: Pholourie, roti (chicken, beef, goat and veggies); pelau (rice, pigeon, peas and chicken); pies (beef, chicken, fish and potato), bake and fish, corn soup, curry corn.

Turkey, Soulshine Market: Cous cous, Lamb Shawarma, Chicken Shawarma, Sweet Potato Shawarma, salad, baklava.

Vietnam Saigon, Erica Deli: Pork/chicken kabob, fried rice, pork eggroll, vegetable eggroll, rice noodle, pork/chicken adobo.

Vietnam, Vietnamese American Buddhist Association: Eggroll, fried rice, crab rangoon, veggie kabob, spring roll, fried banana, stir fry, Vietnam dumpling, Vietnam chow mein.

Expo overview

What: Ethnic Expo, Columbus’ annual international festival featuring food, music, children’s activities and an international bazaar with items ranging from jewelry to handbags. Held rain or shine.

When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 9-10.

Where: First and Washington streets, downtown Columbus.

Admission: Free. Food costs vary from $1 for some single items to about $5 to $7 for complete meals.

Organizer: City of Columbus.

Title sponsor: First Financial Bank.

Parking: Various downtown lots, including City Hall, downtown streets and the parking garages.

Information: ethnicexpo.org.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.