‘The world is one’
Regular route, food return to annual Parade of Nations
HOUGHTON — After one year was canceled and another saw a slimmed-down version with a rerouted parade, this year’s Parade of Nations will be something closer to normal.
Saturday’s parade will return to the standard route, starting at Quincy Green in Hancock at 11 a.m. and ending at Dee Stadium.
Because of continued COVID caution, there will still be no entertainment stage at the Dee, and no dine-in option. A limited number of student organizations will offer food for takeout sales. Finlandia University will have a food booth, as well as Michigan Technological University student organizations from Nepal, India, Africa, Bangladesh, as well as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Muslim Students Association and the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers.
“You can try food from different countries, and that’s authentic food that’s made by the people from that country,” said Ranit Karmakar, the food coordinator. “It’s not an Americanized version of that food. And you can try that authentic under one shelter, that one day.”
There will also be a float contest with prizes of $300, $200 and $100 for the top three entries. Float judges are last year’s Parade of Nations chair Mayra Morgan, Hancock Rotary member Aila Weber and Finlandia University professor Haley Makela.
“They will be looking to see how well the float entries incorporate the theme — ‘The World Is One,'” said parade coordinator Cindy Lysne.
As of Friday, there were 61 countries represented in the parade. For people looking to represent a country last-minute, the parade has flags for more than 80 countries.
“What we try to do is make use of volunteers to carry the flags that nobody signed up for, but we know are represented in our community, just as a way to acknowledge and honor those countries, and thank the people for coming here and being part of our community,” Lysne said.
Students could also request flags to be ordered ahead of time. This year has seen a surge in Tech students from central and western Africa. Nine new flags were requested for this year’s parade: Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Marchers also carry signs bearing the country’s name and the image of their flag. To give people a sense of where each country is located, the countries are grouped together by continent.
“Even though it’s a small town in the corner of the U.S., it’s such a welcoming community to everyone,” Karmakar said. “I think that’s the best thing about this Houghton-Hancock area, and the Parade of Nations, too. You just walk wearing your traditional clothes, holding the flag of your country. If you have a float, music is playing from your country. And you see people enjoying it, they’re encouraging it, and they’re being welcoming about it.”
The parade will also honor Deb Mann, a longtime Parade of Nations committee member, who died in a house explosion late last month. Mann had also been slated to be a parade judge before her passing.
This year’s parade marshal is an organization, International Neighbors, which has been meeting for 52 years. The group reaches out to international newcomers to introduce them to local customs like pasties and provide opportunities for conversational English. The group also helped Houghton and Hancock become designated as International Cities of Peace.
“Even before it was a Parade of Nations, there was a group in our community that recognized ‘Oh, we have international neighbors, we could do something to make them feel welcome,'” Lysne said.