The Keene International Festival 2020 got cancelled because of COVID-19.
However, on September 27, the festival committee organized an alternative “Save the date” event to remind the people of Keene to join the celebration of Keene International Festival next year on September 18, 2021. About 20 people gathered in Keene Central Square on Saturday to raise flags from different countries for the “Save the date” event. The countries included The United States, Japan, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Germany and many more.
Co-chair of the festival committee Ritu Budakoti said that the “Save the date” event is a sign of hope. She further explained, “Today’s event is an idea that has been brought into manifestation, since we couldn’t do the actual event, which if everything were fine, we would be today at Keene Recreation Center celebrating diversity through Keene International Festival.” Budakoti said that the event on Saturday was hosted in recognition to the international community in Keene and to help people know that it is not gone, and will still happen next year.
The other co-chair of the festival committee Elizabeth Nieuwsma-Dell agreed to Budakoti. She added by saying, “We are also here to remind people that we are celebrating diversity, all year, all the time, not just the day of our festival.” She further talked about how festivals like this are time relevant. She said, “ It’s just really important in this time that we remember how special every subculture is in our community and how everybody contributes to the world we live in, and America wouldn’t be what it is without every single person that’s here.”
Budakoti thinks international festivals are important for anybody in the world right now. She said, “When communities like Keene come together and give us the space, time and respect, and sense of belonging, that’s where the strong community is. Then we are not just a local community, our vision expands to become a more global community.”
Nieuwsma-Dell said, “I think it’s great to recognize the cultural diversity that does exist in Keene, because compared to most small cities in America, Keene is not that diverse but yet there is so much diversity and just to raise awareness of that, and to celebrate it, to create a sense of belonging for everyone.” She shared a story from last year where two people new to the city mentioned to her that it was their first time that they had felt like they belonged here.
Nieuwsma-Dell said, “We want everybody to feel like this is their home.”
Keene International festival was established in 2017. They held their first event in 2018 where they drew in over 500 people from around southwest New Hampshire and beyond. In 2019, the city of Keene’s Human Rights Committee became a partner of the event and the event was attended by approximately 1000 people according to their website.
Puja Thapa can be contacted at: