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Embracing Differences: Brazil will take spotlight at Ethnic Expo

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A Bartholomew County tradition returns this weekend with the 28th annual Ethnic Expo, a two-day celebration of Columbus’ diversity, featuring entertainers, bazaar vendors and lots and lots of food.

This year’s host country is Brazil, which will be represented by the Columbus Latin American Association. As a requirement for presenting the host country, the group is required to have a float in Saturday’s parade, a food tent and a cultural display next to the food tent.

“One of the great aspects of Brazilian culture is how festive and colorful it is,” said Rocio Rodriguez, association president. “We are so excited to share that with Columbus.”

Rodriguez said Brazil’s parade float will feature traditional dancers, and among the food offerings will be “feijoada,” a seasoned blend of rice, beans and smoked meats.

The association partnered with kidscommons to reuse and repurpose some of the decorations that the children’s museum used for their Carnivale programming last spring.

“We Latin Americans are pretty creative people,” Rodriguez said. “We figured out how to make it work.”

New to this year’s festival is Ghana, represented by Henry Malm, who will serve “jollof,” or “one-pot” rice with goat meat and fried plantains.

The weekend also will include nearly a dozen vendors in the International Bazaar, each offering goods and craft items representative of their nationality.

But even though the weekend highlights far-flung locales, Ali Crimmins, special projects coordinator for the city of Columbus, said the event has a distinctly local flavor.

“Almost all of our vendors are from Bartholomew County,” Crimmins said.

Many of Ethnic Expo’s entertainers are from the region, as well, including pianist Craig Benner and the Crawdads, based in Bloomington, and North Star Capoeira, a Brazilian martial arts group based in Bloomington and Indianapolis.

Two local groups who were unable to perform this year are Columbus East and Columbus North high school bands; both bands will be taking part in the Indiana State School Music Association competition. In their place will be the 38th Division Band of the National Guard, based in Indianapolis.

“We are so honored and so excited to see them perform,” Crimmins said. The 55-member band will appear in Saturday’s parade.

For the third year in a row, the event will be underwritten by First Financial Bank.

“Ethnic Expo significantly impacts the community in so many positive ways,” said Tom Dowd, market president for First Financial Bank for South Central Indiana.

Dowd said the First Financial Bank has committed $25,000 per year to Ethnic Expo through the year 2015. Other key sponsors are Coca-Cola, the official beverage sponsor of Ethnic Expo 2012, and Ermco, which will provide electrical services.

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