Sept. 29--Michaela Brothers proudly held her homeland's black, gold and red flag and anxiously awaited the start of the Parade of Nations on Saturday morning at the 35th annual International Folk Festival.
It was her first time marching in the parade and the first time in several years that her country -- Germany -- had been represented.
"We're all a little nervous right now," said Brothers, who was accompanied by members of her all-women, German-speaking social club, the Deutschsprachige Frauen Netzwerte.
"We're very proud to represent Germany in the parade," Brothers said. "Germany was one of the founding groups involved at the start of the Folk Festival. We're glad to continue that heritage."
Dressed in either red, black and gold or traditional German garb, Brothers' group marched to "99 Luftballons," a hit 1983 pop song by German rock band Nena. The group's musical accompaniment also included the German national anthem and high-energy German electronic dance music.
Germany was one of about 30 nations represented in the annual parade, which is one of the festival's highlights and its official starting event.
Some nations were represented by dozens of marchers, such as the conglomeration of Caribbean nations. Others were represented by a handful of marchers. Or even just one.
Wearing a traditional Celtic kilt and vest, Frank Byrne was the sole representative of Ireland. Byrne said he's represented Ireland at numerous other festivals, but was making only his second appearance at the Folk Festival.
"The weight of my island is on my shoulders," Byrne joked. "Honestly, the reason so few Irish march is because this is too early in the morning for us."
First-time festival attendee Yolanda McDonald said she was surprised by the size of the festival and its turnout.
"There's so much to see -- so many countries and the dancing and the brightly colored costumes," McDonald said. "I love it. It's very inspiring."
McDonald said she showed up for the parade to support friends marching with Nigeria, whose culture she enjoys and appreciates.
"I love Nigerian food, their morals, their kindness and their speech," said McDonald. "I've lived here 10 years and never been to the festival. I'll definitely be coming back next year."
Herrie Etienne hasn't missed a festival in 18 years, and not just because his wife marches with the Caribbean group as a representative of Dominica.
"This is a wonderful event; we look forward to it every year," Etienne said. "It's all about coming together and sharing and learning about each other's culture."
Learning and sharing were chief among the reasons why Renee Gibbs brought her 3-year-old granddaughter, Madison, to the festival's Kindness Corner on Saturday.
"I'm on grandma duty today," Gibbs said. "When I read about the Kindness Corner, I knew I wanted to come see what it was about."
Located within the Small World Kids Area, the Kindness Corner offered children the chance to make their own colored paper-and-pipe-cleaner flowers, which they could take with them or leave to be taken to hospitals and nursing homes to be given to people who could use an act of kindness.
Kindness Corner organizers said within the festival's first hour, visiting children made about 50 paper flowers to be given to those in need of a pick-me-up.
"It's a nice thing to do for others, and this is a unique, special part of the festival," Gibbs said. "The festival is always great, but this part of it really makes it different and gives kids something more."
At the end of the parade, Brothers and company wanted something more, too. As the group exchanged high-fives, they talked excitedly about what they could do for next year's parade. The ideas included practicing a dance routine, adding more music and building a float.
"Marching in the parade was a blast; we had so much fun," Brothers said. "It was such an honor. Germany is back. We're definitely back."
Staff writer Brian Dukes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3523.
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