For John Berki, the annual Brantford International Villages Festival is a way for his family to stay connected to its roots.
“I am Hungarian, my parents were Hungarian, I speak the language and have always had an interest in my heritage,” Berki said. “We decided when our girls were young that (the villages) were a way to get them involved in that heritage.”
During the past 11 years, Berki, his wife Lisa and two daughters Katy, 19, and Anne, 17, have taken part in the annual festival.
All of the family members are dancers and Katy has served as an ambassador of the Hungarian Village.
“What we’ve found (as part of the villages) was it’s a pretty interesting experience to have that dimension of our heritage,” Berki said. “Our daughters are Canadian born – they are very Canadian girls – but it’s interesting to learn a bit about where their grandparents came from and to learn a little bit about some of their background.”
The 39th annual festival kicked off on Wednesday. This year’s event features 15 villages, which will run from 5 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. on Thursday and 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
This year’s festival welcomes the return of the Guyanese Village after a year off, alongside the returning British, Chinese, German, Hungarian, Indian, Italian, Latin American, Muslim, New York, New York, Philippine, Polish Polonaise, Polish Warszawa, Scottish and Ukrainian villages.
The festival, which will celebrate its milestone 40th anniversary next year, is a way to experience the world’s many cultures without having to leave the country, said Norm Philpott, treasurer of the festival’s board of directors.
“It’s for the promotion of the many cultures between the citizens of Brantford and the County of Brant,” Philpott said. “We promote the different types of cultures and give people a better understanding of our heritage.”
Each village hosts culture-themed events, cultural displays and offers up tastes of traditional foods.
“You’ve got a massive array that you can choose from,” Philpott said. “From Latin American to the German schnitzel to Hungarian and Polish foods. You can even get a hot dog.”
Passports cost $7 for a day pass or $9 for all four days and can be purchased at each village, the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts or at the Best Western Brant Park Inn. Visit www.brantfordvillages.ca for more information.