The annual Romanian Festival, a tradition with long standing history, was a success tasted by many Romanians living in Colorado. The festival is organized by the Romanian American Freedom Alliance (RAFA), a non-profit organization established in 1990 in Boulder, Colorado, right after the fall of the communist regime.
It was put together in its entirety by volunteers, people with big hearts and strong ties to their Romanian heritage and identity. Whether they sponsored, made donations, offered their services or devoted their time, these volunteers made it happen. They set the tone for a relaxing and inviting atmosphere which allowed people to actively engage around their common heritage, language and traditions.
Strengthening the Romanian community in Colorado and educating others about Romania through ethnic cuisine, traditional folk music, dances and art, cultural artifacts, traditional costumes and other traditions is one of the reasons why RAFA is organizing this event. In addition to community building, the festival also has a humanitarian focus. All proceeds from the food sales go directly to humanitarian and educational causes in Romania.
The festival was held for almost twenty years on Pearl Street in down-town Boulder, a city about thirty miles north-east of Denver. After a pause of 3 years, a new and improved edition took place on Saturday, October 12, 2019 on Belmar Plaza in Lakewood, a city in close proximity to Denver.
The crowd attending the festival this year was also more diverse. I personally talked to a couple of Americans without any blood ties to Romania who have heard about the festival from a flier posted at a local Bulgarian store. They wanted to learn more about Romania because they were preparing for a work experience exchange trip next summer to Sibiu.
I also talked to a young guy who was born to an American family here, but moved to Bucharest and lived there for many years before he returned to US. He brought along another American who visited him in Bucharest while he was living there.
Other people stopped by because our “hora” and “sarba” circle dances caught their eye and our yummy “sarmale”, the home-made smoked sausages tickled their gustatory cells. We have tried to advertise the festival via multiple platforms: word of mouth, social media groups, fliers places at various local groceries stores, emails through our two local churches etc.
In addition to the more central location, there were other factors that have contributed to the larger numbers of attendees and the overall success of the event.The festival program included dance performances with two local folk groups: „Hora Romaneasca” and „Balkanica”.
The program also featured live traditional music with artist Petru Paladi, as well as folk music with Monica Muresan. In addition, the festival showed cased a traditional costume parade and presentation from different regions of Romania, as well as many literary and cultural artifacts at the expo booths.
Also, having a festival presenter/moderator-Cristian Popa for the first time to keep the flow of the activities going and to keep the audience engaged also contributed to the success of this year’s edition. We received lots of positive feedback on social media and also many requests to join RAFA and become a member or a volunteer.