Community comes together at Pelham Lions Club’s Multicultural Festival

Community comes together at Pelham Lions Club’s Multicultural Festival

Community comes together at Pelham Lions Club's Multicultural Festival

Community comes together at Pelham Lions Club’s Multicultural Festival

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Community comes together at Pelham Lions Club’s Multicultural Festival

Published: Saturday, January 22, 2011, 8:53 P

Dressed in traditional garb and demonstrating a Spanish folk dance, Katherine Harper searched for a common referent to explain her steps today at the Pelham Lions Club Third International Multicultural Festival.

“This is a lot like square dancing,” she told the audience of several dozen people, many of whom were dressed in the costumes of their own native countries and cultures.Providing a cultural exchange is the purpose of the festival, said Alabama organizers from the international group that has members representing 205 countries — more than the number of countries represented in the United Nations.It was a fun way to find common ground among people of different backgrounds or ethnicity.

“It’s hard to hate somebody you know,” said Melvin Murphree, who as council chairman is the state’s top elected official of Lions Club International. “If you know a person, it’s easier to love him. It’s easier to show him compassion and tolerance.”The festival, organized by the Pelham Lions Club but held at the Vestavia Hills Civic Center, featured representatives from more than a dozen countries who set up informational tables and performed native dances or music.One woman demonstrated a Ukranian folk dance, while a class of students showcased the music and dance of India and a group of older people square-danced.

The Vestavia Belles even provided a bit of local historic culture in their antebellum dresses.Sounds ranged from native American drum-and-flute music to men in kilts playing bagpipes and even Lions Club member John Ocampo discussing the culture and geography of his native Colombia.The Lions Club International, the world’s largest service club, supports several efforts to improve eyesight and other health problems worldwide. It also provides disaster relief money and performs other civic projects.

The Pelham Lions Club’s inaugural multicultural festival in 2009 found its participants through the foreign ministries at Briarwood Presbyterian Church, said Dianna Murphree, the festival organizer and a member of the church.Last year’s festival inspired Ocampo to help form the Birmingham Hispanic Lions Club, the first such chapter in the state. That group sent representatives from Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala and Cuba to this year’s festival.”Next year we want to make it bigger and expand with other countries,” said Dianna Murphree, Melvin Murphree’s wife and president of the Pelham chapter. “We want to learn about other cultures.”