A world of color

A small slice of the big world comes walking and rolling down Columbus’ downtown streets each October.

On a perfect, 60-degree day Saturday, Ethnic Expo parade onlookers such as Katie Grafelman sat on the north end of Washington Street with 3- and 6-year-olds awaiting a bit of pageantry.

“I usually love seeing all the clothes from all the different countries,” Grafelman said.

Host country Pakistan provided a flash of native styles near the front of the procession — and Pakistanis waved tiny flags as they walked behind their float.

Other ethnic touches included a group from the Chinese Language School, although without cultural dress.

Sandy Petz has been coming to the parades for nearly as long as the international festival — launched in 1984 — has been around.

She said she was grateful that the late Barbara Stewart launched the event to highlight a world of culture and diversity in a city with global employers and a growing international population.

Chris Wood said she appreciated Columbus’ colorful, ethnic mix.

“It’s nice to able to learn about them and from them,” Wood said.

“And — some of their food is a lot better than ours,” Doug Wood said.

Children hoping that the event would be a festive treat discovered that it was sweet indeed.

Especially at what might as well be called Candy Corner.

That was at Eighth and Washington streets, where the 50 entries made the turn south toward the heart of the crowd. It also marked the point where most of the entrants initially began unloading collections of mini-chocolates, wristbands, piggy banks, bubble gum, and Dum Dums, which the youngest onlookers thought was particularly smart smart.

“The kids get a lot more candy on this (early) end,” said Dorothy Brown, who had her four young children seated along the sidewalk a full 15 minutes before the Columbus Young Marines led off the 40-minute procession.

Souvenir sunglasses also rated high among the smaller set on the sunny day.

Leo Tian, a native of China, was on hand to watch his daughter perform with Columbus East High School’s Olympian Spirit Marching Band.

“I think it’s just great to see all the people,” Tian said.

Diane Mihay said she has been attending the event long enough to have brought her sons in the past. On Saturday, she sat on the sidewalk next to 17-month-old grandson Anderson Mihay. He held a yo-yo balloon and seemed pretty focused on the proceedings.

“Oh, he loved it,” Mihay said. “I guarantee you. If he had been bored, he would have been up and running around.”

When grandma finally helped the tyke out of his stroller, the seat area was filled with candy and other parade trinkets — representing a world of fun on a day highlighting the city’s global village.

Expo by the numbers

50: Number of entries in the parade

32: Number of years for the local Expo

31: Food vendors

14: Booths in the international bazaar

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