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Celebrate Diversity Picnic Press Release

posted Jul 12, 2013, 7:23 PM by Carolyn Desrosiers

Celebrate Diversity picnic 

Event celebrates Fox Cities’ diversity with food, games, community connections 

 It may be a bit of cliché, but sharing food in a relaxed atmosphere is still a great way to break the ice and meet people from all cultures, all walks of life. The annual Celebrate Diversity picnic -- an event Toward Community: Unity In Diversity has been hosting in the Fox Cities for 20 years -- returns to Erb Park, 1800 N. Morrison St., Appleton on Saturday, July 20.

People looking for food, culturally diverse entertainment, and most importantly, an opportunity to have a conversation with white, black, Hmong, Hispanic and Native American folks, both young and old, are in for a treat.

The free event runs from noon to 4 p.m.  

“Celebrate Diversity is the perfect opportunity to come out of your  ‘comfort zone’  a little bit and meet people from different backgrounds,” noted Prerna Kvalvik, chairperson of Toward Community.  “While Toward Community provides some entertainment, we encourage all people who come, to show off their culture by sharing ethnic dishes, wearing native clothing and telling stories as people gather and share the day eating, playing, talking and listening.”

This summer’s picnic features Hmong dancers (Hkauj Hmoob Hli Hra), Middle Eastern belly dancing with Kahina, face painting, henna, soccer, traditional brats and burgers, several Hmong dishes and other delectable foods.  Unlike many events, you don’t have to register in advance and it’s all free and open to the public.

“We encourage people to bring a dish to pass,” said Scott Peeples, long-time member of the Toward Community. “That could mean a bag of potato chips or an ethnic dish passed on over several generations. But no one cares if you don’t bring anything either. We’ll have plenty of food for everyone.”

Adding a dynamic presence to the picnic this year will be international students from Fox Valley Technical College. Students from Central America will help by preparing food and leading games for children and adults throughout the day.

The Hmong American Partnership, Harmony Café and Insta Print Plus are also offering support and in kind services for the event.

Twenty years ago, the Celebrate Diversity picnic was one of the first organized events organized by a new organization, Toward Community. Toward Community was founded to promote the ideal of the Fox Cities as a place for all sorts of people, not just the predominantly white population. Celebration has always been an important part of the mission, according to Kvalvik, but certainly not the only focus.

“ While the picnic  is an informal gathering, the purpose is far from insignificant,” she explained. “The more opportunities we have to meet others who are different than ourselves, the more we learn how much we have in common.

 “We actually realize that, despite our differences, we all want the same thing: to be accepted for who we are, to be respected and to be treated with kindness and dignity. “

 A few months down the road, Toward Community will focus on the other aspects of its mission, advocacy and education.  “Toward Community: How Close Are We?” will be held on Thursday, September 19, 7 to 9 p.m. at  UW-Fox Valley, 1478 Midway Road, Menasha. The event will take a look at the Fox Cities 20 years after the founding of Toward Community: Unity In Diversity. The question of how close this community is to truly being a community, a place where people look out for one another and celebrate differences, will be answered with people from diverse cultures sharing stories about living in the Fox Cities.

But on July 20, the goal is mostly light hearted conversation, fun and games and a full stomach.  Children who have attended the Celebrate Diversity know that candy is also a highlight. But they have to work for it by taking a whack at the piñata toward the end of the picnic.  With their hands full of candy and their hearts full of hope, the intention is that picnic revelers go home reenergized to support one another.  

For more information on the Celebrate Diversity picnic or the work of Toward Community, contact Kvalvik at 920-738-1895, or go to