Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Spartanburg International Festival

With temperatures more suitable to lounging on the beach than donning the traditional Latvian wool and linen folk costume, we braved the heat to represent Latvia at the International Festival in Spartanburg last Saturday. One of the 50 countries represented at this annual festival in Barnet Park, we spent the day stamping passports, telling people about the Latvian people and culture, and marching in the parade of nations.

In addition to stopping by the various “countries”, visitors could also watch exhibitions, taste food and listen to music from around the globe. Spartanburg hosted the first festival in 1985 to celebrate its international community, and almost thirty years later it is estimated that up to 10,000 people attend the one-day event.

There were about thirty of us representing Latvia, some born there, some here, some elsewhere. We took turns speaking to visitors and exploring the festival ourselves, enjoying the music and food of the other participating cultures.

The next tent over was South Africa, and they kept a great beat up throughout the festival
I wore my folk costume for the first time in its entirety. The skirt was a present, and I lucked out this summer and found the blouse and belt to match. Despite its size Latvia has hundreds of districts, each with its own distinct costume. I am wearing the Suntažu skirt with rietumu Vidzemes blouse and belt. My aube, or head covering, shows that I’m a married woman (unmarried gals wear crowns), and was made by my aunt Zinta for my wedding day. The broach may not be entirely proper (I have some additional research to do!), but it is typical (as is the amber necklace) of the jewelry worn with the tautas tērps. Neither of the boys was wearing a full costume, but Lauris had a linen shirt given to him by his grandmother, and both were wearing the traditional brooches.

With the chance to reach out to a large audience of people, many who do not know where Latvia is located or anything about the culture, geography and people, we’ve discussed branching out; one possibility would be to represent the Latvian cuisine. If the Latvians in Chicago could supply the thousands of pancakes (plānās pankūkas) needed to satisfy the Cultural Festival’s attendees back in the day (for recipe click here), I’m sure we could manage a few hundred. But we would need to start up a mazskautu pulciņš or other nonprofit first... I’ll need to sleep on that.

Thanks to everyone who came out to help with the booth, or just visit and support us. And thanks to the Spartanburg festival organizers for finally (after five years) spelling Latvia correctly! See you next year...

For Spartanburg's Herald Tribune's photo gallery of the festival (including a familiar face at the very beginning), click here.


  1. Looks like a great International Festival... I hate to admit this but I had to look up Latvia on the map to see where it is... How neat to show off your culture --and what a good experience for your kids.... Congrats.

  2. What a great opportunity for your family and how wonderful to share those experiences with Americans! It looks like a great festival to attend.


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