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Local Colors Festival kicks off in Downtown Roanoke for the 20th year

May 15, 2010
  • Among the thousands that showed up to enjoy the day, there is one who stands tall in strength, but small in stature: Pearl Fu.
Among the thousands that showed up to enjoy the day, there is one who stands tall in strength, but small in stature: Pearl Fu.

One park with 94 countries.

Downtown Roanoke became a multicultural melting pot on Saturday, as the Local Colors event kicked off this morning for the 20th year.

Thousands migrated to Elmwood Park for this annual celebration of international heritage.

"This truly brings all cultures together. You don't see that in many cities," said Sharyn Ogden, who was representing her native country of Australia.

Among the thousands that showed up to enjoy the day, there is one who stands tall in strength, but small in stature: Pearl Fu.

About 24 years ago, Fu moved from China to Roanoke and soon after started the annual festival. Now 20 years later, she wears a big proud smile and an outfit representing her current country, not her native country.

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"I'm very honored to be wearing this clothing of the Statue of Liberty," she said as she held out her left hand as if to hold a torch.

Similar to Lady Liberty, she stands to welcome all those who have come to enjoy this treasure of a festival.

"It doesn't feel like its been 20 years because I feel like I'm 19 years old," said Fu giggling. "But its very, very exciting. Its very fulfilling."

And it should be for her, because Local Colors has become one of the biggest events in Roanoke.

"Oh its grown enormously!" said Theodosia Evans, who says she has come ever year and even remembers the first year of the festival. "It used to be in the fall, and it was down in the little Market Square. And it always rained. Every single one. And all the people in their costumes got soaking wet."

Those traditional costumes, donned by those representing their country, prove the variety of backgrounds that make up Roanoke. But those costumes stayed dry this year, as the sun came out with the cultural music, traditional dances, and undoubtedly the best part: the food.

Booths are set up with delicious food, said Fu. Traditional, authentic food from their countries.

And, choices do run the gambit.

"We have Scandinavian pastries here to try, and truffles, which are decorated in the flags," said Joanne Barfield, who was there to represent Norway and all the other Scandinavian countries.

"We also have Vegemite sandwiches," said Sharyn Ogden, who culturally likens the Australian sandwich to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. "Vegemite is an acquired taste."

"We used to sell waffles, and we could sell out 400 of them, and now there's so much competition," said Marlin Tompson, who also represented the Scandinavian countries.

The Local Colors organization itself has evolved into a nonprofit providing Roanoke newcomers with help to get them settled.

"We just moved here like two years ago," said Louise Lim, who is originally from the Philippines. "So when we first experienced Local Colors, it was…great!"

After 20 years, the festival still brings the Star City together, to shine even brighter.

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