McCallie Parent Cultural Committee Hosts Inaugural Big Blue World Culture Fair

  • Thursday, March 30, 2023
  • McCallie website

The clock hit 4:27 Saturday afternoon inside McCallie’s Walker Forum, which meant the inaurgual Big Blue World Taste of Culture Fair had officially been over for nearly 30 minutes.

But despite the 35 or so vendors breaking down their booths as swiftly as possible, more than 50 people continued sampling anything they could find, as if they hoped the fair would last forever instead of its scheduled two hours.

And seeing this as she got a “Henna” tattoo on the back of her right hand, Gena Ellis, chair of the Parent Cultural Committee which did so much to make the Fair a success, burst into a wide smile.

“It was extraordinarily stupendous,” she said of the event. “This is a testament to what happens when all of McCallie comes together.”

The extraordinarily stupendous free food was certainly a huge reason several hundred folks filled Walker Forum over the course of the afternoon. With more than 30 nationalities present in this year’s McCallie student body, and each of them bringing a favorite dish from their home country, this was a foodie’s paradise found.

But as good as that food was, it was far from the only draw.

Middle School principal Scotty Jones deftly handled the expansive variety of music, which showcased the sounds of Africa, Spain, India, Korea, Nigeria, Canada, Australia and the Philippines, to name but eight.

“It’s all good music,” said Mr. Jones, who wore an African Ashoke robe, hat and pants, all three components colored cream and trimmed in gold. “Some of it I didn’t know, but it’s exciting to pick up the timbres and the language.”

McCallie senior Aryan Patel performed Bollywood dances to the Indian music played by Mr. Jones.

“I’m a big culture guy,” Aryan said. “We’ve had too many of our Indian students who’ve been embarrassed about our culture. I’m trying to kick-start pride in our Indian culture and the Fair was a great place to start. I want to lay a foundation with a lot of our younger Indian students, then keep building on it.”

His mother Prerna helped kick-start this year’s fair by bringing the Indian bread Naan, which is a perfect accompaniment for the popular Butter Chicken.

“They go together so well,” said Aryan. “I think they were gone in minutes.”

The Korean BBQ stand manned by Dr. Eun Kyung Lee, wife of Board of Trustee member Dr. Seong-Joo Jeong ‘90 also ran out of food at the end.

“Very traditional,” she said of her station’s offering. “Barbecued beef wrapped in lettuce. Very simple but good.”

It wasn’t all simple, but it was all good, from Ellis’s delectable barbecued meatballs to the culinary stylings of chef Kenyatta Ashford, who won an episode on the popular TV show “Chopped” in 2021 and who plans to open his own brick-and-mortar restaurant soon.

His West African Red-Red dish was a huge hit throughout the day on Saturday and as the lines sometimes stretched to 10 deep in front of his serving area, he said the whole experience “was perfect.”

Perfect was Parent Cultural Committee vice-chair Grace Ilesanmi’s assessment of the event as she began a late Saturday afternoon cleanup in the Forum.

“Ten out of 10,” she said with an engaging smile. “Set-up was perfect. People were happy. I think we all had a great time. Can’t wait to do this again next year.”

Added Principal Jones, his words surely echoed by all who participated, “This was a small idea that turned out beyond our wildest dreams.”

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