by Patheresa Wells
This Sunday, Aug. 14, the Othello Park International Festival is back after a two-year pandemic-related break. For 14 years, this event has offered community members the chance to share their stories and cultures, coming together to celebrate the neighborhood. The festival features food, games, vendors, and yet-to-be-announced performers in a family-friendly atmosphere. The free event will be at Othello Park and Playground, one block east of the Othello light rail station, at 4351 S. Othello Street from noon until 6 p.m.
The festival started in 2008 by the founding members of the Othello Park Alliance, a group that, according to its website, “works to assure that Othello Park is retained, enhanced, and integrated into a vibrant, multicultural, pedestrian friendly Othello Town Center and residential community.”
Mona Lee, one of the event’s founders, said, “The entire Festival highlights community members in every way. Community members are the performers; their organizations have booths at the Festival; they are the volunteers who put the Festival together.”
This year, there will be 90 booths from mostly BIPOC and South End vendors, as well as activities, including creating art at the Makery station or the option to get a henna design at the Henna booth. Local food vendors will also include Delish Ethiopian Cuisine and Dev’s Ice Cream Truck, among others — and free popcorn, a long-standing Othello Fest tradition.
Performances of live music, dance, and even martial arts will reflect the multicultural neighborhood, including the Washington Diamonds Drill Team, Mak Fai Lion Dance Association, Samoan Siva Dance Group, and Northwest Wushu Martial Arts.
Not only is the festival the work of the community, but the park is also. Lee shared that a couple of decades ago, the park lacked the beauty and safety it has now. So the Othello Park Alliance worked to make updates, including the children’s playground, walking paths, picnic tables, and improved restrooms so neighbors can enjoy the nearby outdoors.
The Othello Park International Festival’s return after the two-year pandemic break is an essential revival of this community event. Lee says Othello Park is the neighborhood’s front yard and gathering place, which makes the festival a bash that showcases this space.
“People are excited to learn that the Festival is back. I think for many people it is a great relief to feel that the dark and lonely days are over, and maybe things are going back to normal. The pandemic has taken a toll on people. I feel that depression has been widespread. It will take a while for people to come out from under this, but the return of our traditional neighborhood get-together will help,” said Lee.
Learn more about the festival’s lineup on its website.
The Emerald is a proud media partner of Othello Park International Festival.
Patheresa Wells is a Queer poet, writer, and storyteller who lives in SeaTac, Washington. Born to a Black mother and Persian father, her experiences as a multicultural child shaped her desire to advocate for and amplify her community. She currently attends Highline College in Des Moines. Follow her on Twitter @PatheresaWells.
📸 Featured Image: Children dance along with instructors from La Clave Cubana salsa club, who taught dance moves to the crowd at the 2019 Othello Park International Festival. Photo courtesy of Othello Park Alliance.
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