Local Cultural Festivals Strengthen Our Sense of Community

Written by Brad Karger

Cultural festivals are an important building block of community. They can:

Bring people together

Broaden perspectives

Explore traditions

Create opportunities to make new friends and catch up with old friends

Expand cultural understanding

Showcase dance, music, and other talents

Offer new foods

Share life lessons

We’ve had festivals in Marathon County for a long time. For example, the first Annual Fair of the Marathon County Agricultural Society at Wausau was held on September 24 and 25, 1868!

1st annual Fair in Wausau newspaper ad
Wausau River Pilot advertisement for the first annual fair. (Photo courtesy of the WI Valley Fair.)

That inaugural fair was dedicated to giving Marathon County farmers praise for their “patient toil and the benefits derived therefrom” (quotation taken from the Honorable C. Hoeflinger’s opening speech at the fair, which was given in German).

Today, the Wisconsin Valley Fair still exists as a time of community celebration and brings people involved in agriculture together with others who live in Marathon County for a week of education, tradition, food, music, and fun. The County Fair is so much more than a yearly carnival, though… It brings people in rural and urban Marathon County together in a way that promotes unity and helps people to see how one part of the County impacts the rest and how connected we really are.

Marathon County has seen a growth in the number of comparatively new cultural festivals, such as Cinco de Mayo and the International Wisconsin Ginseng Festival (showcased on an episode of Discover Wisconsin; see video below).

Just this fall, we had several cultural festivals of note, such as…

Central WI Indigenous Peoples’ Day Pow Wow

Pow Wow participants
Participants at the 1st annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day Pow Wow held at Wausau West High School October 2019. (Photos courtesy of the Central Wisconsin Indigenous Peoples’ Day Committee.)

To see local news coverage of the Pow Wow, click here.

Diwali Festival

Diwali Celebration 2019
Dancers at the 5th annual Diwali “Festival of Lights” celebration held at the Rothschild Pavilion November 2019. (Photo courtesy of Indian Society of Central Wisconsin.)

To see local news coverage of the Diwali Festival, click here.

Hmong New Year Celebration

Hmong New Year 2019
Participants at the Hmong New Year celebration held at Greenheck Field House in Weston November 2019. (Photo courtesy of Pang Moua.) 

To see local news coverage of the Hmong New Year celebration, click here.

Cultural festivals such as these provide a venue for community members to learn about cultures different than their own, to meet people that they perhaps would normally not cross paths with, and to have some fun while they’re there! Similar to the County Fair, these events help us appreciate our differences, learn new things, challenge some previously held assumptions, and get to know our neighbors better.

In the planning stages is a new event sponsored by the People for the Power of Love — A Diversity Symposium will debut on MLK Day in January 2020. We don’t know a lot about this event yet, other than it’s in the works. When we know more, we’ll be sure to share it with you.

And don’t forget to mark your calendars for the Chinese New Year Festival, a 2-day event held over Lunar New Year January 24 and 25, 2020. Partnering with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Wausau Campus, Friday afternoon will feature a discussion on the current trade situation with China, followed by a Chinese New Year dinner featuring traditionally prepared cuisine and a speaker from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for East Asian Studies on the significance of the Lunar New Year in Asian Countries. The Saturday event at East Gate Hall in Marathon Park will run from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. is FREE for the whole family to learn about Chinese culture. Take some time to enjoy a mini Tai Chi lesson, learn a few words in Mandarin, or how to prepare a dumplings — a traditional New Year’s treat — from scratch!

chinese new year 2020 - logo

It’s important to note that events like these don’t just happen…

It takes someone — or a small group — with a vision to get the ball rolling. It takes financial sponsors to rent facilities and to fund other overhead costs. And it takes a large cadre of volunteers.

We at Wisconsin Central Time NEWS salute them all. Their service strengthens our sense of community and makes Marathon County a better place in which to live, work, and play!

Brad Karger - Marathon County AdministratorBrad Karger

Marathon County Administrator

In his Administrator role, Brad Karger leads an organization with 700+ employees and an annual budget of more than $162 million. Brad has been in leadership positions with Marathon County for the past 30 years. He is known statewide for generating innovative ideas and solutions to problems, openness and transparency, and a commitment to community service that extends well beyond the normal workday.  Email Brad Karger.

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