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Cultural exhibits offer international flavor



Published: Mon, September 4, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



By AMANDA GARRETT

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- "It's a Small World," after all, echoed across rafters of the Canfield Fair's International and Cultural Building as members of the Puerto Rican Society strummed the familiar Disney tune on two guitars.

Words of the song are particularly relevant for the small space between 4-H exhibits that houses historical and cultural displays from more than a dozen countries.

The displays, decorated with national colors, resemble a miniature United Nations. Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Slovakia and Spain are among the countries with booths in the building.

Each country's display features historical and cultural information along with artifacts unique to the region.

The booths were packed with people on Sunday -- after the fair had lesser attendance on Saturday because of rainy weather.

At the Scandinavian booth, Martha Garasky, of Boardman, wore her "Finnish Pride" emblazoned on a sweat shirt with that slogan and the blue-and-white striped Finnish flag.

"The Finns are a peace-loving and highly educated people," she said of the country where her grandparents were born.

Two languages

Garasky, whose maiden name is Uitto , grew up in Warren in a bilingual household.

"We learned English in school during the day, and at night we spoke Finnish," she said. "It was really an ideal way to grow up."

Garasky keeps her Scandinavian heritage alive through her membership in the Harmony Lodge, a local organization for Scandinavian-Americans.

It was a family affair at the Greek booth, just a short distance from the Scandinavian booth.

Vasiliki Constantine, of Poland, and her three sons, Panayiotis, 12, Antonios, 10, and Demetrios, 14, shared Greek culture and tradition with visitors. Constantine, whose parents are from Sparta, explained cultural mainstays such as religious icons and traditional Greek coffee, while her sons looked through books about the country.

"Of course, I'm prejudiced, but the hospitality in Greece is like nowhere else," said Constantine, who visited Sparta for a year. "Everyone welcomes you with open arms."

Rich heritage

Passing on traditions to children is an important part of keeping the cultural heritage alive, said Mousa Kassis, of Girard, who was at the Palestinian booth.

"We bring a rich heritage to this country," said Kassis, representing the 150-member Arab-American League of Youngstown. "Our kids get the best of both worlds. They have the opportunities that this country provides along with our traditions of hard work and perseverance."

Kuniko Sadowski, of West Middlesex, Pa., in charge of the Japanese display, laughingly explained how the American melting pot can get confusing

"I think I am the only person with a half-Japanese, half- Polish name," she said. "I was born in Tokyo, but I married an American GI with a Polish name. When people ask me about it, I just tell them I'm Irish," she said with a laugh.

A short distance from the Japanese booth is the Scottish display, where Marylou Weiss, of Youngstown, was giving out helpful hints to avoid offending Highland sensibilities.

"If you're going to wear a traditional kilt, always remember that the pleats go on the back side," she said. "That's a very important point -- never forget it."

agarrett@vindy.com




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