Black Hills State University student Gift Ogah, right, from Nigeria watches as Rotary Club President Jeremy Schultes serves food during the International Festival.
 Black Hills State University students Ria Hwang from Seoul, South Korea, and Garima Lohani from Kathmandu, Nepal, take a minute to pose for the camera during the International Festival.
The Black Hills State University International Student Organization (ISO) had its most successful food and cultural fair this year with more than 300 guests including many University students, faculty and staff.  This year’s festival was the first time ISO included both food and cultural displays. Previously, only food was included in the event.

“The event committee has gained much knowledge from this year.  With the great response by guests all dishes ran out,” said Jennifer Lucero, BHSU staff member and International Festival committee member. “We hope to build and learn from our efforts in sharing our students’ cultures with campus and community.”

Bob Dooley, director of A’viands dining services at BHSU, and Ron Showman, dining services operations manager, took more of an active role in the festival this year. 

“This year for the first time, we offered up our kitchen and serving area to the program in hopes that we could increase attendance and overall quality of the event.  We worked with the ISO to order supplies they needed to create their dishes,” Dooley said.

There were 30 countries/cultures represented by BHSU students, faculty and staff including the United States and Native American cultures. There were also samples of food, beverages and desserts from 17 different countries, according to Lucero.  

“This year we had the festival during our normal serving times and all students that have a meal plan were encouraged to participate. We got great reviews for the event as a whole, and will more than likely run the event in a similar capacity in the future.  The event was a huge success,” Dooley said.

This is the second year that Melisa Revilla, mass communication major from Lima, Peru, volunteered in the food festival. Last year she helped the Mongolian team serve food, and this year she pitched in wherever she was needed.

“My favorite part of the food festival is seeing people’s reactions when they first see or try food from another country. Most of them seem really surprised to find out what we eat in our native countries,” Revilla said. “I feel like sharing food with others is a great way to make people become interested in our home countries. Before and after people try our food, they come to ask us questions about our culture and lifestyle. This is my favorite part because it always feels good to have someone interested in you and where you come from. It makes you feel special.”

The international fair will be offered at least once a year to students, staff, faculty, and community members. Revilla said that the outcome this year was better than they expected.

“We were really happy to see the turnout,” Revilla said adding it was great to see so many people embrace the different food and cultures.

The committee is already looking to future events hoping to expand the cultural sharing provided by the University’s many nationalities.

“The objective for this festival is to promote awareness of cultural diversity,” Lucero said. “The committee would love to see more entertainment come alive in the culture sharing, such as culture-specific dance and music (in the coming years).”