Clarkston Contra

Guests at the Clarkston Community Center try their hand at Contra dancing, a kind of country folk dance. According to Cindy Bowden, executive director for the center, Contra dancers perform at the center every Friday night. 

An upcoming international food and wine festival in Clarkston is giving taste buds a ticket to travel around the world and experience different cuisines, all in one convenient place.

The Clarkston Community Center will host its first annual International Food & Wine Festival Sept. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the center’s Angora hall.

The event is designed to showcase the city’s diverse population according to Center Executive Director Cindy Bowden. It will feature cuisine from a total of ten different countries where Clarkston residents hail from, including Ethiopia, Nepal, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Nigeria and the Caribbean.

“We have such a diverse area here with people from more than 57 countries as well as many people originally from Clarkston,” Bowden said. “We thought this would be a great way to show people our diversity and introduce people to the center.”

Area restaurants and caterers will provide guests will various traditional dishes from their home countries while they enjoy a selection of international wines, Bowden said.

“We won’t forget our roots, however, and will also offer several traditional Southern favorites,” Bowden said.

There will be a keynote speech from DeKalb COunty School Superintendent Stephen Green, who will speak on how schools and community can interact together, Bowden said.

Entertainment for the evening will include music from the Georgia State University Jazz Band and Contra dancing — a type of folk dance.

After a silent auction is held, toward the end of the evening, all guests will be invited to try their hand at Contra dancing, Bowden said.

“The most exciting thing is the ability to eat all of this nice food from different places and get to talk to the people who make it,” Bowden said. “This event will also be a good way for people to meet others from outside the community and to talk with people they might not normally get a chance to.”

Yohana Solomon will be one of the chefs in attendance, serving up traditional food from her home country of Ethiopia. Solomon, who has lived in the states now for 17 years, started her own catering company in 2011.

Her company, Kushina Catering, focuses on fusion cuisine made from locally grown ingredients from local farmers, she said.

For the event, however, she will be dropping the fusion to give guests a taste of traditional foods from her country. Dishes will include Sega Tibs, or grass fed beef, sauteed in traditional Ethiopian spices and grilled; and vegan dishes like spicy lentils and carrots and potatoes, served with Injera, a traditional flatbread.

Though she has no professional culinary training, she said she grew up in a large community where everyone fed one another. She said she is excited by community-oriented events like this one.

“I have met a lot of immigrants who have come to the US and do not have families here, and they crave that food from home, but do not know where to go or cannot afford it,” Solomon said. “This is a great way of bringing a little piece of home to them.”

The event is a fundraiser for the center, which serves more than 40,000 people each year according to a press release. Proceeds will go toward the center’s after school program for high school students as well as similar programs that are in the planning stages for middle school and elementary students.

Bowden said these programs help kids who are from families struggling financially and those from refugee families who need a helpful boost in areas like homework, language help and other engaging activities.

“It is a place kids can go while their parents may be working long shifts so they are not stuck home alone just watching TV,” Bowden said.

Tickets are $25 per person or $600 for a table of eight people, and they may be purchased at the center, 3701 College Avenue in the renovated former Clarkston High School building, or online at www.clarkstoncommunitycenter.org. There will be up to 200 individual tickets sold and ten total tables.

Because there will be wine sampling, guests must be 21 or older to attend.

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