To say that the Ethnic Expo free international festival has meant the world to its coordinator for the past 12 years is like saying the event’s 30 food booths offer a little taste of culture across the globe.
It hardly seems to go far enough.
Ali Crimmins will preside over her final Expo — the 34th annual — Friday and Saturday at Second and Washington streets downtown, rain or shine.
“Leaving is bittersweet,” Crimmins said of part of her part-time work as the city of Columbus’ special projects coordinator since 2006. “The relationships I have built with my vendors has been very rewarding.”
So much so that a few of the food and bazaar vendors requested one thing from her at a final pre-event meeting — a hug.
“How wonderful is that?” she asked.
Expo, with a highlight on food, entertainment, shopping and children’s activities, has earned its share of superlatives since Columbus first lady Barbara Stewart launched it as a single-day gathering in 1984 to make international residents feel welcomed — and as an outlet for them to share their culture with the rest of the community while building bridges of understanding.
It now draws thousands of people, with the busiest times being Friday evening and midday Saturday after the parade.
Germany serves as this year’s host country for the first time since 2004. This year’s Friends of Germany organizing committee suggested the timing partly because of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation being celebrated locally and worldwide this month.
Also, German Lutherans have long played a key role in Bartholomew County’s life and culture.
“People have to remember that Luther’s work entailed so much more than just the reformation of the church,” said Colin Scheidt, chairman of the Friends of Germany group. “It also was about putting books into the hands of people in their own language because of Luther’s good fortune of the development of the printing press at that time.
“And Luther taught us all that education was very important — and back then, the common man wasn’t educated. Luther also emphasized that parents needed to be teaching their kids.
“His work also resulted in a lot of free thinking, and an openness that asked ‘What about our monarchs?’ at a time when Germany was very fragmented.”
Crimmins, whose personal global travels include Mexico and Greece, mentioned that her successor has not been chosen. However, she said she knows the festival will be in good hands in the future.
“Ethnic Expo will go on as it has for the past 34 years,” she said. “I’m so pleased to have been a part of this amazing cultural experience.”
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Indy Polkamotion, strolling the streets of the festival with polkas, waltzes and more.
5:45 to 6 p.m. – Cummins Diversity Choir, City Hall Plaza.
6 to 7 p.m. – Il Troubadore world music with Dancer Emily Nowels, First Street Stage.
7 to 8 p.m. – Celtica with progressive Celtic and Irish tunes, City Hall Plaza.
8 to 9 p.m. – Jay Fox Band with German and other tunes, First Street Stage.
9 to 11 p.m. – Violinist Colin Matthews with pop, reggae and other styles in the biergarten.
11 a.m. – Parade beginning on Eighth Street.
Noon to 12:30 p.m. – Southern Indiana Pipes & Drums with Scottish music, City Hall steps.
12:30 to 1:15 p.m. – Kaia, an a cappella group performing everything from Finnish folk songs to African-American gospel, First Street Stage.
1:15 to 1:45 p.m. – Ballet Folklorico of Columbus, with artistic expression from Latino/Hispanic roots, City Hall Plaza.
1:45 to 2:30 p.m. – Schulhaus 4 + 3 Bavarian band, First Street Stage.
2:30 p.m. – Polka demo/lesson, First and Washington streets.
2:15 to 2:45 p.m. – Southern Indiana Taiko of Columbus (drumming), City Hall Plaza.
3 to 4 p.m. – Emily Ann Thompson Duo (Irish, Scottish and Canadian tunes on guitar and violin), First Street Stage.
3:30 to 4:30 p.m. – Columbus Got Talent winners Shiveka Trivedi and Neha Divekar presenting a mix of Indian dance, City Hall Plaza.
4:30 to 6 p.m. – Indy Polkamotion with polkas, waltzes and more – First Street Stage.
6 to 7:30 p.m. – Velvet Caravan with what it calls Gypsy jazz, City Hall Plaza.
7:30 to 10 p.m. – Violinist Colin Matthews, in the biergarten.