By Lauren Schiavone
Hometown Weekly Staff
Bellforge Arts Center was bustling on Saturday, October 8, as locals ventured to the stage and lawn in front of the chapel for CultureFest. Celebrating individuality and diversity, the festival began at 10 a.m. Bellforge’s family-friendly CultureFest celebrated traditions, customs, art, and food of cultures from all around the world. Locals shared artwork, dances, music, stories and more as the Center partnered with Medfield Together to create an inclusive space that celebrated what it means to be part of a community.
Bellforge invited a wide range of vendors, organizations, performers and artists to set up booths in tents as a way for CultureFest attendees to immerse themselves in diversity.
Lauren Zembron, Medfield Together Steering Committee member, was happy to share that culture is more than just a geographical location. “Culture is not just about someone’s country of origin, but the people they associate with,” she stated. “Culture is not just someone’s ethnicity, but where they feel that they fit in to society. We have neurodiversity and people of different sexual orientations and they have different booths. We think about the definition of culture and what that means to other people.”
A crowd by the outdoor stage gathered for Kurt Jackson’s captivating storytelling. Jackson’s presence was inviting to everyone, as children learned from the fables that featured characters persevering, with overarching messages of community building and acceptance.
Soon after, Chefiatou Tokou of Simdaca led an African dance performance workshop, inviting community members to join together on the stage and learn to dance sangra from Angola, as well as the Nigerian shakti and shaku.
Bellforge Program Coordinator Alex Maider-Porter agreed that the entertainment and vendors were perfectly serving the cultures they represented, simply by being themselves. “This day is so great,” she mused. “There’s vendors, artists, food, crafts and activities. People come from all over different countries and share where they’re from; there’s a lot of connections being made.”
After dancing, attendees took a break and explored the options of food available, from vegan banana bread and tea cakes to savory spicy Indian samosas. Vendors in tents nearby also had a medley of unique items for sale. Benefiting LGBTQIA+ and neurodivergent communities, as well as people of color, vendors sold plants, polymer clay and fabric earrings, wood carved jewelry, coasters, and tie dye. A local henna artist had set up a table and offered traditional Indian mendhi art in celebration of the day.
For attendees, the challenge was choosing where to focus one’s attention. Bellforge’s CultureFest delivered plenty of culture; the enriching and eclectic Saturday at Bellforge was enjoyed by all.