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November 13, 2023

40th Annual International Fair takes hybrid form


Flag bearers, who represent their country’s campus population, gathered for a picture after the Flag Parade on 4/11. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

Flag bearers, who represent their country’s campus population, gathered for a picture after the Flag Parade on 4/11. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

Between a theme of Entertainment and COVID-restrictions preventing an in-person cultural showcase, the International Club worked with their theme and through the unprecedented circumstances to create a virtual I-Movie. A look at Knox’s 40th annual and 1st pandemic-friendly International Fair during mid-April 2021.

On Saturday April 10, carrying movie theater style tickets and an event brochure, students filed into Harbach Theatre to attend a Knox tradition, the I-Fair cultural showcase. Although the event looked much different from past years due to the pandemic, students were still able to spend the week appreciating different cultures. 

The week consisted of international recipes in the cafeteria, along with a cultural showcase and flag parade during the weekend. Due to pandemic restriction, the cafeteria dinners replaced the usual food fair. Along with changing the structure of the fair, International Club (I-Club) also chose to move the events from winter term to spring term so more people would be on campus.

“We didn’t want to move it because we think of it as a tradition, but it’s a special year. After a long discussion, we said, “Okay, we’re going to move it,” and I think we made a good decision,” Co-president sophomore Susan Htun said.

In order to make such large changes to these events, the co-presidents began working on a blueprint for the week during the summer. Additionally, because the executive members were in different states and countries, time differences caused difficulties in scheduling meetings. 

“I would say time difference was one of the biggest obstacles we had,” Co-president and junior Wakako Sugata said.

The executive board sent out a survey to gauge student interest for this year’s theme. With a lot of feedback suggesting “Movies” or “Music,” they decided to combine the two for a theme of Entertainment. With this concept, many events were centered around watching movies online or listening to music with various cultural clubs. The cultural showcase couldn’t take place in person, so was presented for the first time as an International Movie consisting of dance routines or videos sent in by students. The I-Movie was presented on a screen in Harbach Theatre at two different showing times on Saturday. 

“Since the theme was ‘Entertainment,’ we had a popcorn machine outside of Harbach to make it seem like people were coming to a theater,” Htun said.

The flag parade, which traditionally takes place right before the cultural showcase, was held the following day in Harbach Theatre, and marked the end of International Week. Since the cultural showcase had a virtual format for the first time, the club is seeking ways to upload it online for Knox community members to access.

International Club co-president Susan Htun holds the flag of Myanmar next to Knox College President Teresa Amott. The 40th annual International Fair is Amott’s last as Knox’s president. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

International Club co-president Susan Htun holds the flag of Myanmar next to Knox College President Teresa Amott. The 40th annual International Fair is Amott’s last as Knox’s president. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

Bollywood Dancers:

One entry to the online fair was from a group of Southeast Asian students performing a dance to Bollywood music. Junior Shuchita Poddar was one of these students. She says that the dance was put together in only a few days, and was done out of sudden but mutual interest between the group.

“On the day it was due we just shot it out on the lawn outside of International House. I think we spent about an hour or an hour and a half at night. It was really fun because these are classical old Bollywood songs from when I was in fourth or fifth grade,” Poddar said.

Although they had less than a week to choreograph and practice the dance, it only took four tries to finalize the video that was shown at the fair. The group could only allot one hour for their filming, so once everyone was doing the steps right and in frame, they submitted the video.

Poddar says that the group all had fun while dancing and made lots of memories. She also said that the dance allowed the group to learn different parts of each other’s personalities.

“One of my friends did not want to dance. The first day he was just sitting holding the laptop, and then the next day he was dancing with us. That was a highlight, we were like, ‘We know you want to, we know you know the steps,’” Poddar said.

When the fair came and the video was finally shown to an audience, there were many playful shouts across the audience hyping up the dancers. 

“It was kind of embarrassing in a fun way, because all of our friends who performed together, some of them were in I-Club exec, so they were all sitting together in the back laughing, and the people who did not perform but were there recording were shouting and howling, and I’m like, ‘Stop making it more embarrassing than it already is,’” Poddar said.

Comic about Home:

Taking on a different medium than other entries, senior Kevin Cox submitted a comic titled “Kebabistan” for I-Fair this year. The comic was presented through a video that included unique sounds to move between scenes and a bit of voice acting. The comic includes two characters in a cafe having a discussion about kebabs. 

While the comic was presented at I-Fair this year, Cox actually created it during the 2020 spring term as a final project for an anthropology class. His professor asked students to create unique final projects because of the unparalleled nature of the first full term where students were dealing with the pandemic. Cox described the project as “a comic about home.” Cox is from Turkey, which was the inspiration for the subject of kebabs.

“Kebabistan is a symbolic name, an analogy for my home town Adana,” Cox said.

Cox was raised in a bicultural household with one of his parents being from Turkey, and the other being from Florida. This heavily influenced his comic in terms of character choice and how the idea of kebabs was presented.

“I basically knew both of the stereotypical people from these countries. That’s why the two characters were set in a cafe just talking. I thought it was a cool opportunity to use that,” Cox said.

Cox says that the movement from anthropology project to I-Fair just happened naturally. With a few takes, and a recovery mission (really a trip between two dorms for a microphone), the video came into existence.

“I just got my phone out and started to record the whole thing,” Cox said.

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