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Kalamazoo Russian Festival at WMU

Nov. 4, 2008

KALAMAZOO--The 13th annual Kalamazoo Russian Festival will celebrate all things Russian from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, in the Fetzer Center at Western Michigan University. Preview events have been set for Thursday and Friday, Nov. 6 -7.

Admission to the family-friendly Saturday festival, called "Russia: Looking to the East and to the West," is $8 for adults and $4 for children age 6 to 18 and college students with a school ID. Children age 5 and under will be admitted free.

Preview events

The 2008 festivities will kick off with a free preview event called "A Poet's Tribute to Russia" at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Portage District Library, 300 Library Lane, Portage, MI. Local poet Judith Rypma, a WMU master faculty specialist in English, will read poems from her books "Holy Rocks" and "Mineral Treasures" as well as from unpublished manuscripts. After the reading, Russian-inspired refreshments and a variety of teas courtesy of Tatiana's Teas will be available, and attendees may view a display of Russian folk art.

The other preview event is the fifth annual Gala Concert, featuring ethnic dance to jazz and folk music, at 7 p.m. Friday in WMU's Dalton Center. Gala tickets, which include admission to the festival on Saturday, are $15 for adults and $8 for children age 6 to 18 and college students with a school ID. Children age 5 and under will be admitted free. Performing will be Chicagoan Sergey Isakson, a jazz pianist originally from Pushkin, Russia; the Kalamazoo Chinese Dancers; Balalaika, a musical group from Komi, Russia, representing the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C.; and internationally known musicians Tamara Volker and Anatoliy Trofimov, who will be playing unique contemporary arrangements on traditional Russian instruments.

Festival activities

Saturday's activities will include a bread and salt ceremony at 10:30 a.m. followed by a variety of entertaining and educational activities. In addition, there will be exhibits of Russian artwork, Russian food for sale at lunchtime, a marketplace where attendees may purchase Russian arts and crafts, crafts and face painting for children, and an adoption room sponsored by Bethany Christian Services.

Along with Volskaya and Trofimov, the day's performers will include Golosa, the University of Chicago Russian Choir; the Kalamazoo International Folk Dancers, who will give two demonstrations as well as some instruction; the Chinese Instrumental Ensemble, and Kalamazoo police Officer Steve Smith, who will demonstrate sombo wrestling. An 11th-grade English from Marshall, Mich., also will perform "Vasilissa, Baba Yaga and the Golden Thread." The play, which was written by WMU's Rypma, is based on a Russian fairytale.

Rypma will be among several WMU faculty members with expertise on Russian who will present talks throughout the day. Her program, "The Mystery of the Amber Room," will take place at 2:40 p.m. and will focus on a real-life palatial room that Russian czars forged out of rare amber, from the room's massive panel walls to its finely crafted furniture. The room's fate has remained a celebrated treasure mystery since German troops seized it during World War II.

The other scheduled talks are:

  • "Exploring Pushkin's 'Bronze Horseman" at 11:30 a.m. by Scott Friesner, assistant professor of English, which will explore the multifaceted nature of one of poet Pushkin's most famous works.
  • "Russia-American Relations After Georgia" at 12:30 p.m. by Dr. James Butterfield, professor of political science, which will examine how realistic another Cold War is given the current state of Russian-American relations and will include viewpoints from both East and West.
  • "For Better or Worse: Russian Influences on Central Asian Life" at 2:30 p.m. by Dr. Allen Sabadell, professor of anthropology, which will focus on the profound effects that Russian control and policies have had on the various peoples of Central Asia.

The main festival sponsor is the Kalamazoo-Pushkin Partnership, a citizen group formed in 1992 to promote relationships between Kalamazoo and its sister-city, Pushkin, Russia. Co-sponsors are the Portage District Library, and WMU's Department of English and Lee Honors College. Festival proceeds help humanitarian organizations in Pushkin, such as an orphanage, a private women's health clinic, the Pavlovsk Art School for the Deaf and art classes in the Pushkin schools.

For more information about the Kalamazoo Russian Festival or the Kalamazoo-Pushkin Partnership, go to russianfestival.org or call festival director Jerolyn Selkirk at (269) 665-9554 or Kate Koppy at (269) 244-8138.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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