Eight-year-old Jamie Rutstein sat perfectly still while getting his face painted at the University of Mary Washington’s 33rd annual Multicultural Fair this past weekend. He barely budged or even squinted as a paint brush daubed with blue and white tickled his cheeks and forehead.
Jamie’s cool demeanor at the busy fair comes from experience, said his mom, Amanda Rutstein, a 2007 UMW alumna who manages the academic department offices in Monroe Hall. Jamie has come to the Multicultural Fair every year of his life except during the pandemic hiatus.
“It’s just a good community event and a really fun time,” Rutstein said as Jamie hopped off the face-painting chair set up on the main floor of the Cedric Rucker University Center. Mother and son headed off to explore the fair’s many craft vendors, children’s activities offered by UMW student clubs, community information tables and performances.
Though the morning’s rain moved most events indoors, the daylong Multicultural Fair, held on Saturday, April 1, nevertheless drew enthusiastic crowds. The annual springtime tradition, sponsored by UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC), celebrates diverse worldwide cultures while bringing together Fredericksburg-area residents, Mary Wash students and other members of the UMW community.
Audiences gathered in the Cedric Rucker University Center’s Chandler Ballroom for dance and musical performances in a variety of styles, from clogging by the Calico Cloggers to a reggae/go-go fusion, courtesy of Ras Lidj and Regg’Go, that those attending didn’t just hear but felt to their toes.
The Wolverines Thunder Step Team, teens in grades nine through 12 at North Stafford High School, gave up Saturday morning sleep-in time to present a high-energy step and chant show. Hands clapping, feet pounding and braids flying, the team mixed precision stepping and humor in a presentation that left the audience cheering.
Additional performances, representing many cultures and styles – Indian music and dance, jazz, K-pop dance, praise music, and much more – took place all day in the Lee Hall Underground and Monroe Hall auditorium.
By noon, most of the rain had given way to 70-degree breezes and glimpses of blue sky and sunshine. That was good news for the food trucks that lined Jefferson Square, offering Indian, Greek and Puerto Rican dishes, barbecue, tacos and that most beloved of fair foods, the funnel cake.
Back at the Cedric Rucker University Center, vendors did a brisk business at their indoor locations.
Dolkar Lhamo, whose space offered finger puppets, hats, scarves and other handmade items – crafted by and supporting Tibetan refugees living in Nepal – said she looks forward to UMW’s Multicultural Fair every year. On Saturday, students and other customers crowded her table to buy miniature felted animals and say hello.
“I do really good every year here,” she said. “I love the students. They’re so wonderful!”
Weather aside, the fair went smoothly and successfully, organizers said.
“We were especially grateful to all who participated and performed, and to those who came out in support of the event,” said Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of Multicultural Affairs Marion Sanford. “It was truly a rewarding day for the JFMC.”