30th Annual Idaho International Summerfest

DJ:

Idaho International Summerfest is an event that brings people from all over the world to Rexburg.  Celebrating its thirtieth year, this year’s event is expected to draw a crowd of over 50,000.  Donna Benfield with the Rexburg Chamber of Commerce joins us now to talk about how this event got started.

Donna:

We had the opportunity to be chaperoning a team in Europe from Ricks College, at the time, and the story goes that the chaperons were so impressed with the way all the different cultures were getting along together in one spot, that they came home to Rexburg, and said, “Why couldn’t we do this in our own little community right here?”  And it’s not that we had even a dance team that we could call our own, a Rexburg Dance Team, but it was more the thought of bringing everybody together from many different cultures and many different countries and having them just share their culture, and so they came to the Chamber of Commerce, and at that time I was on the Board of Directors, and this little group of people said, “We can’t do it ourselves, but could we get the Chamber to help us sponsor an event like this?”

DJ:

Over five thousand people attended that first event and since that time its began a long standing tradition of promoting cultural diversity within the community.

Donna:

Besides the Summerfest, we have another gem in our community, really as far as providing culture, and that is BYU-Idaho. This university, has at the last count that I heard, was 45 different nations represented in students attending school, so we have probably the largest gathering of different cultures in one place. There’s lots of companies that just love the student pool of international different languages.

DJ:

Benfield says that there are a number of ways that the community can get involved including being a host family for the many dancers that are coming from all over the world.

Donna:

If anybody hears of a country they would like to either volunteer and help us in an event, or house.  Housing is another thing where we have just learned over the years so much about families, and schooling, and how other countries, how they actually feel.  You know, one thing I’ve learned over the years, is that we’re all alike it doesn’t matter where you come from.  The one thing that all of these people bring, is they bring out the pictures of their family.  If they happen to be married, or even they are single, you know, they want to show us their brothers and sisters.  They want, now, the neat thing about skyping and Facebook and all of that, we skyped with a couple of girls that lived in Mongolia and they had their families right on our computer in our computer room and it felt like we were just in the room next door and they were all the way from Mongolia.

DJ:

This year’s Summerfest will be happening July 8th through the 18th Benfield says they’ll be trying a few new things this year.

Donna:

Well, the new thing, the biggest new thing is that first day, that Band-a-Mania.  We’ve never had that event before.  We’re closing off 2nd West and we’re including Porter Park, with a ton of family games, they’ll all be free.  You can come down and spend hours playing different things, climbing the rock wall, you know, doing a bunch of things like that.  That’s a new event.

We also have the Jackson Hole event on Wednesday, the 15th.  Never have done that before.  This is a first time.  We’ll see how it goes in Jackson, but if anybody wants to, you know, travel over there for the day and just do some, you know, tourist kind of things and watch us dance in the park we’ll be at the town square doing little vignettes, all day long and then a big gala performance like I said, at their center of arts in the evening at 7 o’ clock.

More information on the event can be obtained at idahosummerfest.org.  I’m Rhett Neilson for Community Connection.