June 28, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Fun was key at third annual International Fest in Medina

MEDINA — Like a champagne bottle cork popping to signal the start of a celebration, a burst of music cued more than 100 Jazzercise students to pour out of the crowd and into the street near the entertainment stage and start dancing. The performance, which was not listed on the schedule of events, added a surprise twist to the afternoon for those who attended the International Festival on Saturday on the square.

Tracy Oriti, a certified Jazzercise instructor and owner, said students from Medina, Brunswick and Wadsworth participated. She explained it as a flash mob concept without the destructive element that is sometimes associated with it.

Bagpiper Tyler Tagliaferro, 16, of Medina, leads the children’s parade of nations around the square Saturday as part of the festivities for the Medina International Festival. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JUDY A. TOTTS)

Bagpiper Tyler Tagliaferro, 16, of Medina, leads the children’s parade of nations around the square Saturday as part of the festivities for the Medina International Festival. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JUDY A. TOTTS)

“We wanted to have some fun, so in the spirit of the festival, we used international music — Latin, French, Italian, African and a little bit of country for the United States,” Oriti said, adding that the festival committee agreed to keep it under wraps to ensure an element of spontaneity.

Matt Wiederhold, executive director of Main Street Medina, an organization dedicated to promoting the historic district and businesses around the square and one of the agencies sponsoring the event, climbed a ladder near the stage to photograph the dancers as they exuberantly clapped and moved to the beat. From his vantage point, he also got a better view of the people jamming the sidewalks around the square, lining up for food or browsing for bargains at the craft bazaar tents that sprawled across the park.

“Our goal for the bazaar was to get 100 vendors, and 80 signed up this year, so it’s growing well,” Wiederhold said, adding that the number of food concessions jumped to 19 this year. “For only the third year, the festival has become a well-known event in the area. It’s a full day of fun.

“We’re trying to bring in some new things,” Wiederhold said. “We have more demonstrations, tae kwon do by students from Kim’s College of Martial Arts and the drumming by Mame Daiko Taiko Drumming Ensemble — it’s beautiful and powerful. Last year they did some educating as they played, so there’s an educational component. It’s a fun day, and the events are free, thanks to the local businesses that pay for it.”

Medina Hospital, a co-sponsor of the event for the third year, also added to the educational aspect, said Monica Carmont, the facility’s community outreach coordinator.

“We love doing events with Main Street,” Carmont said. “It’s great community involvement.” The hospital provided blood pressure screenings and information about strokes and stroke prevention.

Children and parents threaded their way through the park to the craft tables to make jewelry or suncatchers or to try out the musical instruments from other countries.

“We came in to town to visit grandma and stopped for the festival,” said Josh Grayshaw as he helped his daughter Chloe string beads. “We’re having a good time.”

Other guests followed their noses as the enticing aromas of Indian, Lebanese, Greek and American fare pulled them into a gastronomic orbit of the park to discover the delight of palacsinta, a strawberry-filled Hungarian crepe topped with whipped cream, before moving on to sample homemade dumplings and pierogies, samosas, potstickers, cannoli and baklava.

Music and dancing were big draws throughout the day, with a mix of Celtic rock music by Whupptiy Scoorie, polkas and the more exotic Middle Eastern melodies accompanying the belly dancers. Tables shaded by maples and oaks allowed a shady spot to eat while guests enjoyed a performance of the Sho-Jo-Ji Japanese Dancers.

As the dancers, clad in bright-red kimonos cinched by silver brocade obi belts, twirled purple parasols and performed classical Japanese dances, they encouraged guests to join them.

“In Japan, folk dances are done so everyone can celebrate,” said Beverly Kerecman, one of the lead dancers who taught some simple steps to those willing to join the group. “This festival is a reason to celebrate together.”

Contact Judy A. Totts at jatotts1701@gmail.com.