New York Mills Cultural Center hosts annual ‘Celebrating Cultures’

NYM Cultural Center will host "Celebrating Cultures," a free family-friendly community art and cultural exchange at the New York Mills Sculpture Park on May 31 with free and paid activities/products.

White Earth Nation tribal dancer
A Native American dancer from White Earth Nation gives a cultural demonstration at a previous year's "Celebrating Cultures<br/>
Contributed / Cheryl Bannes

New York Mills Regional Cultural Center will present “Celebrating Cultures,” an annual community art and cultural exchange from 4-7 p.m., on Wednesday, May 31 at the New York Mills Sculpture Park/Barn, which is located just of U.S. Highway 10.

“Last year, we had it out at a sculpture park," said Cheryl Bannes, New York Mills Cultural Center artistic director. "We had about 100, 150 people show up. We had dancers and drummers from White Earth.”

Celebrate the cultures of the region with this public community event hosted by the Cultural Center and Niijii Radio, which is an independent broadcasting radio station to the people of the White Earth Indian Reservation in Callaway.

“We had a number of dancers from White Earth, which was really fabulous. it is something everyone needs to come out and see and then we had a Finnish display from Finn Creek (Open Air Museum),” Bannes said.

This year is the third annual event held in partnership with Niijii Radio. Niijii Radio will once again work with partners to share Native American dancing, drumming and storytelling, as well as a variety of indigenous artists and makers.


“We have so much going on,” Bannes said. “There is something for everyone. There's food, there are demonstrations by artists. There's art people can do. There's art that they can purchase.”

"Celebrating Cultures" event by New York Mills Regional Cultural Center
"Celebrating Cultures" event presented by New York Mills Regional Cultural Center.
Contributed / Cheryl Bannes

At this year’s event, organizers are opening the event up to vendors to sell their goods. Vendors who are selling goods are asked to pay a booth fee of $25 (and keep 100% of their own profits). Artists demonstrating or sharing practices do not pay any fees.

“As you know, the New York Mills area has a strong Finnish heritage. But it also is historically, Ojibwe lands,” Bannes said. “And there are there's a lot of history in this area that isn't being acknowledged perhaps as best as it could be. “

Ideas for participation in “Celebrating Cultures” include art activities for children and adults, artist/maker demonstrations, cultural exchange sharing presentations, food booths/trucks and any creative way to share and celebrate a variety of cultures, organizers of the event stated.

“What we've found is that a number of people living here in this part of Minnesota have not had the opportunity to go to perhaps a powwow or see the Native American regalia and understand the dance and the drumming,” Bannes said.

Indigenous art and craft vendor or demonstration at "Celebrating Cultures."
Indigenous art and craft vendor or demonstration at "Celebrating Cultures."
Contributed / Cheryl Bannes

In the case of extreme/inclement weather on the day of the planned event, New York Mills Cultural Center officials are planning on a rain date of June 2.

“This was a great way for us to be able to bring everyone together to create an atmosphere of appreciation and understanding and the dancers and drummers from White Earth are wonderful in explaining what the dances are for or the meaning or the history of each of the dances,” she said.

Bannes said organizers of the event have invited people of many cultures over the years and just wait to see who shows up sometimes.


“This year, one of the things that we're getting is an Aztec dance troupe coming up from Minneapolis. We're very excited about that,” Bannes said.

Those with questions about the event are encouraged to contact the New York Mills Cultural Center at 218-385-3339 or .

“The first couple of years of the event, we were really stifled a little bit by COVID. And so we're growing this to be an all-inclusive, welcoming event,” Bannes said. "We want everyone to come and feel welcome and anybody who would like to join in should give us a call.”

Event activities and performances:

  • Performances:
    • Aztec Dance Performance at 4 p.m.: The Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli traditional Mexica-Nahua (Aztec) cultural group is dedicated to preserving and practicing the traditions of the Mexica-Nahua culture through dance, drum, song and philosophy classes for all. They are based in St. Paul.
    • Buffalo River Dance Troupe at 5 p.m.: Ojibwe dancing, drumming and storytelling.
    • Open Mic from 6-7 p..m.: Share a cultural story, song, poem, etc. with fellow attendees. Keep your sharing to 5 minutes or less to allow everyone a chance to share.
  • Activities/Learnings/Demonstrations:
    • Finland in a Suitcase from 4-5:30 p.m.: Join Amy & Adam Tervola Hultberg of Finn Creek Open Air Museum to explore the Finnish culture.
    • Improv for Kids with visiting artist Valerie David from 4:30-6 p.m.: Learn some skills and then try them out during Open Mic.
    • Roots & Wings Forest School: Sharing creative nature activities for kids in celebration of outdoor culture.
    • Precious Plastics: Reuse, reduce and recycle in style with the Otter Tail County Solid Waste Department by creating repurposed plastic art creations from discarded plastic items.
    • Soccer: Learn some soccer skills from Perham’s Latino-Community soccer team, FC Perham.
    • Art Activities: Art activities for all ages with Cultural Center staff/board/volunteers.
  • Indigenous Artists and Makers: A variety of Indigenous artists and makers will share their creative practices.
    • Regalia Viewing: Teresa Rojas will bring different regalia for people to see the intricacies and details.
    • Dream Catcher Demonstration: Tonya Strom will demonstrate/share about dream catchers.
    • Chokers/Bracelets: Char Ellis will create chokers and bracelets.
    • Quill Work: Dana Trickey will be selling quill work art pieces.
  • Food & Drinks:
    • Native Harvest: Offering wild rice hot dish and sumac tea for purchase.
    • Taqueria Escobar Food Truck: Local family-owned Taqueria from Pelican Rapids with delicious Mexican food.
    • Lions Bar: New York Mills Lions Club will serve beer.

FRANK LEE is the features writer for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. He may be reached at 218-631-6470 or at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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