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Weirton celebrates heritage with Festival of Nations

Members of the Kyiv Ukrainian Dance Ensemble entertained the crowd with a variety of Ukrainian dances as part of the 10th-annual Festival of Nations, held Saturday at the Millsop Community Center. -- Craig Howell

WEIRTON — The melting pot came to life in Weirton Saturday with the 10th-annual Festival of Nations, held at the Millsop Community Center.

The yearly celebration, organized through the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center, includes an afternoon of live music, dancing and food representing a variety of ethnicities, many of which call the Weirton area home.

In welcoming those gathered in the community center’s gymnasium, Museum President Dennis Jones credited Dr. J.K. Luthra, who has chaired the festival committee from its beginning, with the success of the event over the years.

“He started this festival 10 years ago, and has kept it going,” Jones said, also thanking Kalpana Gupta, festival director, for providing additional support in recent years.

Discussing some of the festival’s history, Luthra noted the original version, started by E.T. Weir, only lasted 10 years. The reinvigorated festival has continued to grow, he said, attracting people from outside of the Ohio Valley as it showcases a variety of cultural heritages.

Jaya Shri performs a traditional Indian dance Saturday during the 10th-annual Festival of Nations, held at the Millsop Community Center and organized through the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center. -- Craig Howell

“The festival serves a bigger purpose than just fun, entertainment and a variety of foods,” he said. “It gives a platform for everyone in the nation of immigrants to preserve their roots, pass them on to the next generation and share them with fellow citizens.”

He especially encouraged the youth of the community to attend the festival, with the hope they will learn more about other cultures.

“They need to see the melting pot in action,” Luthra said.

He also took a moment to thank all of this year’s participants and the committee members for their work in putting the festival together.

Performers scheduled to appear Saturday — representing the heritages of Ukraine, India, Greece, the Philippines, the United States, China, Japan and the Middle East — included Kyiv Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Jaya Shri, Sanskruti School of Indian Dance and Music, Sheena Chopra, Grecian Odyssey Dancers, Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh, Ohio and West Virginia Line Dancers, Yanlai Dance Academy, Nandanik Dance Academy, Tadashi Kato, Elizabeth Mourat and the Brooke High School Madrigal Choir.

A variety of food vendors also were on hand, with selections representing China, Greece, India, the Philippines and the United States.

Informational tables also were available focusing on China, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Norway, Poland and Frontier Persons.

This year’s major sponsor was Weirton Medical Center.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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