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ORANGE COUNTY CENTENNIAL : Kaleidoscope of Cultures : Festival Brings Together 35 Ethnic Groups for Entertainment, Food and Fun

On Saturday and Sunday, any stereotypes of limited cultural diversity in Orange County should come crashing down at the Kaleidoscope Festival in Irvine.

A cross-disciplinary melange of performances, exhibitions, food and fun taps 35 different ethnic groups that make their home in Orange County. Sponsored by the Historical and Cultural Foundation and Orange County Centennial Inc., the free festival is one of two events, along with this weekend’s South Coast Centennial Jazz Festival in Costa Mesa, that mark the end of the yearlong centennial celebration, which has included nearly 200 public performances.

Activities will be held both days from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the grounds of Park Place, a large business complex off the San Diego Freeway in Irvine.

Plans for Kaleidoscope have been in the works for more than a year and have involved as many as 1,500 volunteers, according to the Historical and Cultural Foundation’s director Virginia Donohugh. Organized in 1985, the foundation includes several ethnic councils who work to preserve and enhance public understanding of their heritage through events, exhibits and media presentations. A Kaleidoscope committee, composed of foundation and centennial volunteers, supervised the early planning stages of the event.

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To bring together the broadest range of ethnic groups for the event, Kaleidoscope planners “did everything we could to reach out to the community,” explained Donohugh. “We started with our own councils, then we called our friends, and they called their friends. It just kept growing.”

The result, she said, is a colorful, multilayered event that will promote greater understanding of Orange County’s various cultures. In addition, said Donohugh, it will set the theme for the county’s next century, “when our many cultures will be called upon to help the country grow in business, medicine, politics . . . every possible field.

“As a centennial event,” added Donohugh, “Kaleidoscope marks an ending and a beginning.”

More than 10,000 people are expected to attend the festival, which is being professionally managed by Despie & Mitizker, a Southern California special events company. The firm has also been hired to produce the halftime show for the 1990 Super Bowl XXIV and plan the upcoming wedding festivities for the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi, an emirate on the Persian Gulf.

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Obviously, these guys know how to throw a party.

For Kaleidoscope, Dennis Despie has scheduled 63 different amateur and professional performers to appear on three outdoor stages. It’s a global lineup: an Israeli folk singer, a German choir and oom-pah band, a Mexican theatrical group, Vietnamese dancers, and a French harpist. There are Irish musicians, Chinese kung fu artists, even an Indian snake charmer. There’s also a Storyteller’s Theatre, where yarn spinners will weave tales from over a dozen countries.

When your stomach calls for some gastronomic globe-trotting, Kaleidoscope will be ready with 17 food booths scattered across the grounds, featuring taste treats from China, Greece, Sweden and more. (For those with tender tummies, the Park Place cafeteria will also serve a variety of American dishes.) Thirsty folk can quaff a few at a genuine German beer garden.

In the mood for shopping? In the International Marketplace, located in a corner of the Park Place cafeteria, 20 shopkeepers from around the globe will offer ethnic handcrafts and gift items. Nearby, but not for sale, will be displays of valuable art and artifacts from various cultures, including a continuous fashion show of precious Indian jewelry.

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For an up-close-and-personal look at individual cultures, a series of outdoor pavilions will be featured. In the Asian Indian pavilion, you can try your hand at the ancient art of rangoli, or sand painting, learn the trick to tying a sari, don headphones for a taped lesson on traditional Indian music or study India’s history and religions through photos and text. On a small stage at the center of the exhibit, excerpts from a traditional Indian wedding and regional folk dances will be performed.

In the Japanese pavilion, highlights will include hands-on demonstrations in origami and doll-making, along with exhibits in ikebana (flower arranging), calligraphy and bonsai. Inside a reproduction of a Japanese teahouse, viewers can experience the quiet serenity of a traditional tea ceremony.

The activities in the Black Cultural pavilion, said Donohugh, will include a lesson in black history with costumed UCI professors and students re-creating moments of black history. And in the Pioneer Council pavilion, descendants of the county’s early English, German and Polish settlers will show off costumes, artifacts and photographs that illustrate their heritage.

In an exhibit in the Latin American pavilion, Santa Ana High School students will present “Vision Beyond Limits,” a photographic chronicle of day-to-day life in their neighborhood. Also on display will be works by watercolorist Ilda Mendez and muralist Emigdio Vasquez, along with artisans’ demonstrations of papel picado (paper cutting), popote (straw painting) and Peruvian rug weaving. Live models will show the traditional costumes of Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Mexico, and the Red Onion restaurant will sell Mexican food inside the pavilion area.

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On Kaleidoscope’s Main, Garden and Festival stages, 15-minute performances will include Israeli folk songs by singer/accordion player Oscar Sladek; excerpts from “Los Santoches,” an all-Spanish theatrical piece by Santa Ana’s Taller Experimental de Teatro; and selections by the International Peace Choir, a group of young singers, ages 5 to 17, wearing costumes of many countries. The choir also will be featured with the Nicholson Pipes & Drums, a Scottish/Irish bagpipe band in Kaleidoscope’s opening ceremonies at noon on Saturday.

The Iranian Children and Young Adult Festival will present “Wedding of the Lady Bug,” a musical based on an ancient Iranian folk tale, and “Dance of Bander,” a celebratory dance from the Persian Gulf region. An authentic Indian snake charmer and his trusty cobra, both imported for the festival from the city of Bangalore, will perform several times throughout the event.

To help you wend your way through all this, Kaleidoscope organizers will distribute detailed directories of all performances and pavilions, plus a site map. The free programs will be available both days at the central information booth next to the Main Stage.

The Kaleidoscope Festival runs Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Park Place, 3333 Michelson in Irvine (corner of Jamboree Road and Michelson Drive off the San Diego Freeway). Admission is free and free parking is available on the grounds; shuttle service will be provided. For information, call (714) 553-1220. RELATED STORY: Part II, Page 1.

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