by Patrick Nolan
SBJ Contributing Writer
Attendees of last year's Multi-Cultural Opportunity Festival can plan on this year's event to be just as entertaining, informative and filled with opportunity if not more so, festival organizers said.
Slated for 1-5 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 18, at the University Plaza, the second annual festival features free attendance and more than 60 exhibitors.
Attendance is expected to be double last year's estimated 3,000 to 5,000 visitors, said Samuel Knox, president of Unite. of Southwest Missouri Inc., the event's founding sponsor. As a result, Unite. has reserved more space for the event this year.
"There was a need to do something on a grander scale, with our entire community participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday," Knox said.
The festival showcases products and services, job opportunities, community programs and agencies, and offers entertainment from many of the cultures represented in Springfield.
"A highlight of this festival is we include the performing arts," Knox said. The 1998 festival featured several chorale groups and dancers, and the arts will be well represented again this time around.
Attendance from Springfield's surrounding communities was limited last year, but "hopefully this year we can get the word out in the satellite towns," Knox said.
Jerry Berger, director of the Springfield Art Museum, is spending his holiday at the festival, handing out information on the museum and its exhibits to attendees.
Kathy Clancy, director of the Mayor's Commission on Human Rights, said the event is a great way to finish off the holiday's activities, which begin with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march. The march will be held 11 a.m.-noon, starting at Old City Hall, heading south on Boonville to the square and ending at the Abundant Life Center (formerly the Fox Theater).
Clancy said last year's festival drew a broad mixture of attendees, although she would have liked to see more high school-age kids enjoying the entertainment and seeing what is available in Springfield.
She noted that the diverse entertainment is a centerpiece of the festival. "People left their booths to watch the entertainment" last year, Clancy said. "We got lucky our booth was right next to the stage."
Clancy said a common complaint she hears is about the lack of cultural activities in Springfield. This event, she said, goes a long way toward addressing that issue.
Knox said he believes the event is a good opportunity for exhibitors to get to know more of the Springfield community.
"Since it's multicultural, the event reaches out to a broader community," he said. "I think this is a real good opportunity for business owners to share their goods or services with the public."
"We try to be involved in the community to provide information and encourage citizen participation in government," Clancy said. "We felt (last year's event) was a very productive day."
She went to pass out flyers and information and ended up with a number of internship applications.
"We had a great time," she said. "Word will get out. It was really an excellent and uplifting experience for Springfield."
Sponsors of the festival include the Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Lottery, KY3, First Card, NationsBank, Springfield Public Schools, Commerce Bank, the city of Springfield and Positronic Industries.
For more information on the Multi-Cultural Opportunity Festival, call 864-7444.
Multi-Cultural Opportunity Festival Map (inset)[[In-content Ad]]
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