You could hear the lilting accordion music long before actually arriving within the global village called Ethnic Expo at lunchtime Friday, thanks to Indy Polkamotion. The strolling trio lived up to its mobile moniker while giving Columbus’ annual downtown international festival a definitive German flavor.
Such became significant with Germany as the host country in an area with a substantial German heritage.
Bob Klemen and his bandmates had just completed an energetic polka when someone asked the group their favorite part of their ethnic music.
“The beer,” cracked Craig Martindale.
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And off they went, musical and cultural ambassadors with a sharp note of playful humor translating easily into any language.
Polkamotion returns today on the First Street Stage from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Art Schwenk, a former longtime local German teacher who still takes groups on trips to Germany, turned carnival barker for the sake of his Friends of Germany booth.
“Step right up — best brats in town!” cried Schwenk, moving up and down the street.
Then he stopped a moment, bent down, grinned and whispered to a passer=by: “I just realized they may be the only brats in town right now.”
There were plenty of takers with a line of patrons outside the booth, as cloudy skies gave way to sun just before noon.
Others such as Andrew LaRouche, a native of Malawi who has lived in Indiana since 1999, stuck to his own Expo tradition — roti, a chicken-curry-and-potatoes dish from the Trinidad/Tobago booth.
A coworker at the small Columbus firm of Permawick, where LaRouche works and features staff from five nations, makes the specialty fairly regularly and brings it to the office to share. But LaRouche offered a reminder that Expo is more than a well-mapped meal.
“I love seeing all the people come together from different countries,” he said.
Expo, which began in 1984 as a food, music and shopping tool to help the community embrace citizens arriving from all over the world for work opportunities, regularly turns the city into the area’s biggest restaurant. On Friday, walking along Second and Washington streets, passers-by could smell everything from sauerkraut to curry to grilled chicken shishkabobs and more among 30 food booths.
At lunchtime, perhaps the most popular booth was Nigeria, where prospective diners stretched 25-people long. Some, such as Nigerian native Gozie Ugwo, vacationing from London, England, figured a menu that included a doughy fufu and soup would be worth the wait.
“The best part is the sensation when you swallow,” she said.
Around the corner, at the international bazaar, workers such as Emily Mitchel at the Ecuador booth filled with thick, handmade sweaters, loved the sunny weather and the people perusing her and her mother’s wares that have been a part of Expo for 32 years of its 34 years. She wished only that the temperatures would dip a bit from the mid 60s.
And you easily can imagine why, with a table full of winter hats and the like.
“When it’s colder, it goes better for us,” Mitchell said.
Today’s forecast calls for late-morning temperatures in the upper 60s, followed by mid-70s until the anticipated afternoon high of 80 degrees by 4 p.m.
Amid the festival’s melting pot atmosphere, Germany still weighed heavy on the mind of Expo attendees such as John Dougherty, who lived in the southwestern portion of the country in Landstuhl as a teenager from 1959 to 1961 while his father was in the military.
“The German people were outstanding,” Dougherty said.
11 a.m.: Parade beginning on Eighth Street traveling mostly along Washington 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.
2:15 to 2:45 p.m.: Southern Indiana Taiko of Columbus (drumming), City Hall Plaza.
2:30 p.m.: Polka demo/lesson, First and Washington streets.
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 (pictured above right) with what it calls Gypsy jazz, City Hall Plaza.
7:30 to 10 p.m.: Violinist Colin Matthews, in the biergarten.
9 p.m.: Fireworks.