KWC's Multicultural Festival draws crowd

The sky was a little overcast at times, but spirits couldn’t have brighter among the attendees and vendors Saturday afternoon at the first Kentucky Wesleyan College Multicultural Festival, which was held on the campus’ quad area.

Vendor tables lined two sides of the quad, with food trucks and a large stage filling much of the middle.

“It’s exceeded my expectations at every turn,” said Lori Thurman, KWC’s coordinator of equity and inclusion who organized the event. “The community has really supported us. First Presbyterian Church and the Owensboro Multicultural Festival has been very supportive of us doing this. We just feel really lucky we’re in a community where we can celebrate diversity twice a year. We’ve got enough to celebrate.”

The festival opened with a fashion show put on by KWC’s Black Student Union, the school’s NAACP chapter and its Asian student organization.

“This is really about my students,” Thurman said. “The students wanted to do this. They wanted to have it, and I’m so proud of their leadership in this. It came form the international students. They were the catalyst.”

KWC student Jaylin Bross, president of the Black Student Union and NAACP chapter, was one of the leading student organizers. He was glad to see so much work that went into preparing for the event pay off.

“I’m glad God sees fit that on this day we could all celebrate together,” said Bross, who also praised Thurman’s efforts. “Ms. Lori has done a tremendous job — countless hours she made phone calls.”

Owensboro resident Allen Holbrook was walking around the festival as a karate exhibition was about to begin. He was interested in seeing how the event compared to the festival held at First Presbyterian.

“I just wanted to see what was going on,” he said.

The afternoon was filled with music, with all of the live performers current KWC students or alumni. A group also performed a Lunar New Year Lion dance that is usually performed during the Chinese New Year.

Sam Hardesty, president of KWC’s Prism club, was manning the club’s table and was pleased with the interactions he’d had with attendees.

“Turnout is great, really about what I expected,” he said. “I’m so happy the school is able to put on this event.”

While it’s only the first year for the event, Thurman sees it continuing.

“We want to make this an annual event,” she said. “We want it to be a community staple. We want to make it even bigger and better. I have some plans to bring back some homegrown talent. I’m wanting to bring back some Grammy-winning Owensboro talent, so I’m working on some plans for that — that’s two years down the line.

“We want to expand it and make it as big as possible, but also respect the other festival as well. This one has a little bit of a different feel.”

Thurman hopes the event shows KWC students that there is a local community they can belong to and feel at home.

“A lot of students want to stay in Owensboro, or stay in this area, and I think they need to see that there’s a place for them,” Thurman said. “We talk about the brain drain and we talk about these young people leaving, and the more that we let them see that there’s a place for them, that there’s a community for them, and that this community exists outside of the campus, they’re more likely to stay.

“I want them to see this is a place I’ve made my home — I went to Kentucky Wesleyan, and I made Owensboro my home — and I want them to see it could be a place that could be their home to.”