On an evening in May, one school brought a whole community together.

In its first ever Culture Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School in Guelph, students, parents, teachers and neighbours came out to get a taste of the nuances of each other’s backgrounds.

“It was a tremendous success,” said Principal Tim Yawney.

Planning began in January, when the event was inspired by a passage in the Book of Luke, encouraging followers to open their doors and invite in their neighbours. So, the school council got to work.

The festival was advertised online and with about 100 postcard invitations given out in the area. Families taking part were given $50 to cover the cost of food for their home-cooked dishes.

By the time the day arrived, there were 15 cultures represented on 22 display tables and with 15 entertainment acts.

Those who came could fill their plates with foods originating from Indigenous, Irish, Italian, Eritrean, Filipino and German roots. Irish and Filipino dancers, Scottish bagpipers from Fergus and an Italian choir were all there to perform.

And for the 100 or so students who came to participate, there was also a little bit of shock.

“They couldn’t believe it was free,” said Yawney. “They’re really looking forward to next year, and I could easily see (attendance) doubling in size.”

“It’s very fitting for us, and it’s a celebration of the diversity at Our Lady of Lourdes,” he said.

Bringing a people together to celebrate difference and diversity is a wonderful way to teach our kids the values of community and acceptance. Help us continue our work by sharing this story.

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