Five-year-old Rowan Pavlich could barely contain herself as dancers took to the stage Saturday.
The fiery redhead had a belly full of fried bread and kept kicking her legs to the song as her parents and twin brother finished their snack during the Ethnic Celebration at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey.
The event is in its third year in Lacey. It was the provenance for nearly 20 years of the City of Olympia before relocating because of budget cuts, said Jeannette Sieler, recreation supervisor with the City of Lacey.
More than 1,600 attendees had walked through the doors of Marcus Pavilion by 2 p.m. The event lasted until 7 p.m. and usually attracts about 3,000 people.
The event has expanded over the years to include nine food vendors, 44 cultural booths and 27 performance groups this year.
Yong Kang, owner of #1 Korean BBQ in Lacey, served bibimbop, a rice and vegetable dish, for the first time this year.
“It’s nice,” Kang said. “It’s good to get to know all the cultures.”
Rowan held on to a sparkly necklace she picked up from one of the booths, but stopped in her tracks once a group of singers came to the stage.
“She loves the singers,” said her mom, Dawn Pavlich.
The family was impressed by the food offerings, as well as the knowledge of those working the booths.
“The venders are all really nice and eager to interact and talk with the kids,” Pavlich said. “My daughter said she didn’t know about so many countries, and at 5 years old, I think she is getting a lot out of it.”
Tanya Cabalar of Lacey brought her three daughters, ages 6, 4 and 3, to Saturday’s festivities.
“It was something to do to get out of the house and try all of the different food,” Cabalar said, pushing a stroller as her eldest daughter walked alongside.
Each was wearing a necklace and holding on to a bookmark she made.
The bookmarks, a craft sponsored by North Thurston Public Schools, depict children wearing the traditional clothing of their country.
There were new countries added to the options this year, including England, Scotland and Bangladesh.
One of the school district’s parents helped design the bookmark representing Bangladesh, which showed a boy holding on to a kite.
“We couldn’t find one to use, so a parent on our multi cultural advisory board volunteered her husband,” said Karen Eitreim of North Thurston Public Schools.
The idea of the booth was to get the kids involved, as well as read.
“We wanted to have a free, fun activity for children — and we want kids to read 20 minutes a day or more,” Eitreim said.Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/thisjustin @chelseakrotzer