In an effort to unify Cornell cultural organizations and to increase their presence on campus, the first-ever Cornell World’s Fair was held Friday.
Sponsored by the Class of 2006 Council, the fair’s centerpiece was an international and cultural exposition in Barton Hall which attracted about 2,000 people. Barton’s indoor track was transformed into a ring of booths, each run by a different organization. A stage was set up at the far end of the hall and about two dozen performances took place during the night.
The participating organizations ranged from international clubs like the Singapore Student Association and the Jewish Russian Club, to the more locally based Cornell Republicans and Cornell Abroad. Throughout the evening, one of the most popular booths was Ghanaians@Cornell, which offered a selection of traditional foods.
The performances represented an equally diverse group of styles and backgrounds, including a Tae Kwon Do demonstration and dance routines which varied from belly dancing to salsa and tango.
The event was formulated by Pauline Yi ’06, Class of 2006 cultural liaison, during her interview for Senior Class Executive Board last spring, according to Miriam Gross ’06, vice president for publicity of the Class of 2006 Council.
“In her interview, [Yi] spoke [about] wanting to bring together the cultures of 2006 as an extension of our mission to appreciate diversity and [unity],” Gross said. “We created the position of Cultural Liaison just for her and her idea for the fair grew with inspiration from Senior Class President Mike Zuckerman ’06 and Convocation Chair Jon Bellante ’06.”
The fair also included an international film festival, which showed, “Y Tú Mama Tambien,” “Sepet,” and “Kung Fu Hustle” at the Cornell Cinema on Friday afternoon.
International exhibitions have taken place globally since the 1851 exhibition in London, according to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the group which sponsors contemporary World’s Fairs. Although Cornell’s event was an not official World’s Fair, it drew its inspiration from a long series of similar international endeavors. According to the BIE, the last official exhibition took place in 2005 Aichi, Japan, and the next one will be in 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain.
Cornellians need not wait as long nor travel as far, however, as another World’s Fair is being planned on campus for next spring.
Gross explained, “One of the main reasons the programming board encompassed members [of] the other three class councils and underclassmen and staff from Cornell’s cultural umbrella groups … was so that they would be able to continue the event next year.”
“Each of these groups was integral in the planning and execution process and we are confident that they will utilize the framework we have developed to repeat the event next year and help it grow into one of the campus’ most successful annual events,” she said.
The exhibition was well-received by the Cornell community. Eyden Reinhardt ’09 decided to attend at the last minute but ended up staying the entire evening.
“Overall, I thought it was good,” he said. “I really liked this mango drink from the Nepal Students Association, and also the dances.”
As the academic year winds to a close and the Senior class prepares to graduate, the Class of 2006 Council was enthusiastic about the overwhelming response to the World’s Fair.
“We are very excited about how the event turned out; we are thrilled that the Cornell community showed as much interest in the event as we expected they would,” Gross said. “Our goal with the event was to unify the cultural organizations to have a larger presence in campus events, and attract a diverse group of students and staff to share in the cultural experience and learn something new. We feel [the World’s Fair] was certainly a success and hope that we have improved the cultural understanding, University spirit and pride of each person who attended.”
In addition to the Class of 2006 Council, the fair was co-sponsored by the Class of 2007, 2008 and 2009 Councils, the African, Latino, Asian, Native American Program Board, Black Students United, CUTonight, the International Students Programming Board (ISPB), the Jewish Student Union and the University’s Office of Minority Educational Affairs.