Celebrating culture and community

Annah Young tending to the vegetables at her City Sprouts Farm stand while volunteer Alex Mclntyre promotes on Friday, Sept. 27 at the Birchwood International Market. // Photo by Claire Ott

By Alix Condit

The Birchwood International Market showcased cultural performances, music, art and food to celebrate neighborhood diversity on Sept. 27. The event ended Birchwood’s four month series of festivities.

The market is an opportunity for community members to get together and experience new cultures as well as celebrate their own culture. 

Bellingham’s former Albertsons grocery store was located in the Birchwood neighborhood, but it closed in May 2016, according to a previous Western Front article. The surrounding community was left without access to food.

The market has become an outlet for residents of the neighborhood to rejoice in their community.

Performance is one of the ways people have shared their stories at the market. Estrellitas de Bellingham is one of the groups that performed. The group consists of children ages 4 to 15-years-old. 

The group has formed a sense of community for the dancers. The children and teens are able to share their culture with their community as well as their peers.

Cara Cressell (left) and her student, Celia Mclatire (right) pose for a portrait at the Azara Tribal Bellydance stand at the Birchwood International Market on Friday, Sept. 27. // Photo by Claire Ott

Marta Herrera, the group’s dance instructor, uses traditional dances from a variety of students’ backgrounds. She said it is important to her that her students learn about their roots. They learned traditional dances from El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia to name a few.

While Herrera’s favorite part of Estrellitas de Bellingham is the performances, she finds her students enjoy the practices more than anything. 

“[Being part of the group] affects their self-esteem and their sense of community,” Herrera said. 

She said whenever the group takes a break from practicing her students are always eager to get back. 

Seeing kids dance is a highlight of the market for many. 

Robyn Ohara, a vendor at the market, said that she loves having a space with a clear view of the performances.

Miguel Rueda and his wife do not get to enjoy the show from their food stand, but they have been at the market since day one.

Seasonal vegetables featured at the City Sprouts Farm stand at the Birchwood International Festival on Friday, Sept. 27. // Photo by Claire Ott

Rueda grew up in the Birchwood neighborhood and has never missed a market. While he enjoys all the events, selling his food at Birchwood International Market is special to him. The market feels like home and is a great place to see what Bellingham is becoming as the city gets more diverse, Rueda said. 

The Birchwood Neighborhood alone has 26 different languages spoken throughout the community.

Friday night wrapped up the final Birchwood International Market for 2019, but it plans to continue in 2020.

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