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Cultural diversity brings us together
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I've said it before, and I'm going to say it again. Turlock needs to bring back its cultural festivals. Cultural diversity is one of the Valley's greatest strengths, and it should be celebrated whenever possible.

I've lived in Turlock for over 14 years now, and I'm still learning about the many cultural backgrounds of area residents. On Saturday, I joined the Sons of Norway for their annual  Syttende Mai  (May 17) celebration in honor of the Norwegian Constitution Day.

Being a Swede, I'm already a little familiar with Scandinavian customs, but I'd never heard of the game kubb before Saturday. Kubb is a lawn game that was described to me as a cross between horseshoes and bowling.

A big fan of History Channel's series "Vikings," I was also pleasantly surprised to see a clan of vikings camped out at Donnelly Park next to the Sons of Norway barbecue. Dark Boar Vikings displayed their historically accurate fighting skills and gear and I could almost picture them among the rocky shores of Scandinavia — that was until a little boy and his mom skipped through the camp on their way to the park's public restroom.

Syttende Mai  was not the first Valley cultural event I've attended. I've seen hundreds of colorful flower petals fall from the sky during Livingston's annual Sikh parade, officially known as the Hola Mohalla festival; indulged in all things Greek at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church's annual food festival; and learned about the Azorean culture through the Turlock Pentecost Association's Festa.

At Christmas time, I've witnessed local residents reenact Mary and Joseph's search for shelter in Bethlehem in the Mexican tradition of Posadas; and celebrated my own cultural heritage at Scandifest — before it ended in 2002.

While all these individual events were worthwhile, the best cultural experience I've had was when the Taste of Turlock became a heritage, as well as food, celebration in 2010 and 2011. The downtown event featured Assyrian and Hispanic folkloric dancers,  Lucha Libre wrestlers, a Maypole, square dancers, an Irish band and food from around the world.

The 2010 Taste of Turlock event drew four times the number of visitors as 2009, an increase the downtown association attributed to the cultural theme. To me, that is proof that Turlockers will support a multi-cultural festival that celebrates the food, music and traditions that make the Valley unique.

Cultural events not only celebrate our pasts, they also bring us together through education and understanding.

This column is the opinion of Kristina Hacker and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.