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National Multicultural Festival to feature Hawaii among old favourites

Every February thousands of visitors descend upon the city to enjoy the vibrant and ever-changing National Multicultural Festival. Amelia Dale discovers what this year’s event has in store.

The National Multicultural Festival is a celebration of our nation's cultural diversity, putting aside politics for the weekend (not an easy task in a town like Canberra) to come together through food, costumes, traditional dance and music, and most importantly, a strong community spirit.

"Without the communities, we would not be here today," festival director Nic Manikis says.

"The festival is only successful because of the hundreds of individuals representing various groups and orga­­­nisations who come together each February to showcase what's great about our city's cultural diversity."

This year the festival will continue to showcase the favourite features that have made it so popular, alongside some new and exciting attractions.

Alicia Doherty is president of the Canberra division of the Australian American Association, which will once again be hosting a stall in conjunction with the US embassy, following the success of last year's Route 66 Experience.


She says that she could not be more excited to be bringing more American culture to the people of Canberra.

"What I really like about the festival is that by celebrating our cultural differences, our similarities are naturally highlighted. It's great to be able to share and make people smile through great music, food and decorations," she says.

"Everybody's there for a good time – they're just out to try the great food, listen to the great music, see the performances. "

This year, the American Experience has a brand-new theme with exciting features and activities to top last year's rock and roll extravaganza. In 2015 the focus will be on Hawaii, with plenty of ukuleles, brightly coloured shirts, and an explosion of pineapple-themed decorations.

"The pineapple is synonymous with Hawaii, but when I started researching it I found that it didn't start life in Hawaii, Hawaii just made a whole industry out of it," Doherty says.

"Long recognised as a symbol of welcome and hospitality, it has an amazing story to tell from cultures all over the world, so we're hoping to add another element to the festival this year by focusing on this fruit via recipes, cooking demonstrations, fashion shows, craft activities and creative decorations."

The American Experience will feature many tasty pineapple treats, information from Hawaii Tourism, a special pineapple-themed cake-up from the Canberra Cake Club, and plenty of involvement from local and international American organisations. Myer has even given its support by supplying some amazing pineapple decorations.

"We have lots of organisations that have an American tie – Smoque American Barbecue, the Harley Davidson Club, the American Car Club, rock and roll dancers, Coca Cola," Doherty says.

"Then there's the local cheerleaders, local baseball and gridiron teams, in addition to the Boy Scouts of America, who have a troupe based at the US embassy."

Local purveyor of vintage wares April's Caravan will also put a unique stamp on the American Experience, with roaming models in retro outfits adding to the atmosphere.

There is so much that is new and exciting about the 2015 Multicultural Festival, but regular visitors with a craving for their old favourites can rest assured that all the famous dishes, from Thai curries and Spanish paella to Dutch pancakes and an array of meats on a stick, will be on offer to tempt their tastebuds.

National Multicultural Festival
February 13 to 15 February