ACE MV’s cultural eye-opener

Ralph Stewart

Imagine the ethnic street fairs of a number of cities combined into one event (on a small scale of course) and you get an idea of what ACE MV’s (Adult and Community Education Martha’s Vineyard) second annual Cultural Festival has to offer.

This Saturday, Nov. 19, the cafeteria and adjoining hallways and lobby of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School will be abuzz with food stalls, vendors, musicians, and other performers introducing a variety of world cultures to guests. The event will also feature children’s films from around the world and a program of performances representing both global and local music.

The festival is ACE MV’s only fundraiser and also an awareness raiser. Lynn Ditchfield, the organization’s director, conceived the idea to help further an initiative put forth by ACE MV to introduce Islanders to a variety of cultures through their programming that includes, among many other things, language instruction, history classes, ethnic cooking, martial arts, and salsa dancing. According to their mission statement, ACE MV provides “life-long learning that bridges generations and cultures to improve the quality of life for all members of our community.”

Last year approximately 250 people attended the inaugural festival, which was spread out from the Performing Arts Center to the cafeteria. This year, Ms. Ditchfield has decided to condense the event to the area around the school’s front entrance, but the festival will actually feature more of everything, including food, which ran out early last year.

In the lobby will be dozens of silent auction items, including a two-day trip to Hyannis with accommodations and dinner for two. In the cafeteria, guests will be able to purchase food from a variety of vendors while enjoying mini performances.

Among those selling food will be local restaurants Deon’s (Jamaican and Caribbean), Sai Mai (Thai), and Tropical (Brazilian). There will also be offerings by caterers and other individuals from Cape Verde, the Dominican Republic, India, and Uruguay, as well as french pastries and Chilmark Chocolates. Diners will be treated to demonstrations of salsa dancing, Brazilian capoeira, belly dancing, and folk dancing as well as Irish tunes and a fashion show of artist Janice Frame’s fascinator hats.

During the event, vendors will be set up along the front hallways, offering handcrafted gifts from around the globe. Among the goods offered for sale will be Native American jewelry, Haitian art, Irish pottery, African and Peruvian crafts.

From 5 to 6 pm, kids can enjoy an international program of short films, provided by Cinema Circus and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. At 7 pm, the culinary arts dining room will be the site of a multi-cultural concert. The Black Brook Singers of the Wampanoag tribe will start off the show with a blessing song. As a special treat a 15-member Afro-Uruguayan rhythm group will come from Boston to perform. The group’s trip has been funded in part by Nacho Vignolo of Island Copper. Also appearing will be popular local musicians Sabrina and Don Groover, singer/songwriter Elizabeth Straton who will perform in Spanish, and Irish musicians Gregg Harcourt and Mary Wolverton who will be joined by Billy Meleady.

Ms. Ditchfield notes that there are many ethnicities represented on the Island and she is pleased with the number of cultures she has been able to incorporate into the festival.

“When you keep your eyes open, it’s amazing,” Ms. Ditchfield said. “We do have a lot of different cultures right here.” She points to the variety of Asian nations and South American countries represented on the Island. “We want people to get to know our cultures and our history. The whole idea is that we really mix and match people.”

ACE MV’s Cultural Festival, Saturday, Nov. 19, 5–9 pm, M.V. Regional High School, Oak Bluffs. $15; free for children under 12.