Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
The James H. Rainwater Conference Center was transformed into a trip around the world on Thursday for the first day of the Azalea International Folk Fair.
This year, the fair hosts 15 students from two different junior high schools in Taiwan that spent as much as $2,500 of their own money just to be at the fair.
“We arrived here last Wednesday,” said teacher Lily Ku from Lan Tan Jr. High School in Taiwan.
Along with Ku, teachers Angel Huang and Elvira Hu from Ming Sheng Junior High School and parent Apple Young also escorted the students.
While some students had visited the U.S. before, some like 14-year-old Claire Kan were experiencing the country and the culture for the first time.
“What’s your favorite part of America so far?” The Times asked.
“The food,” said Kan.
Her favorite, mashed potatoes.
For 14-year-old Enris Kuo, the South Georgia scenery, though a drastic difference from her Taiwan home, was her favorite.
“There are many trees, rivers and animals,” said Kuo. “I like it.”
The students from each Taiwan school prepared a traditional Taiwanese performance to teach their American audience a little bit about their culture.
The Lan Tan group performed a Tempo Parade Dance.
“It’s a traditional dance in Taiwan . . . to celebrate and worship the gods,” said Ku.
Students from Ming Sheng did Kung Fu.
The festival’s main attraction however, were the Valdosta High School and Lowndes Middle School students who performed the dance of the Third Prince, Nezha in large, colorful and intricate costumes that some took as many as two people to man.
Nezha was the third son of a military commander named Li Jing during the Shang Dynasty between 1776 B.C. and 1050 B.C. He later became a Taoist God of righteousness and is often depicted as a young warrior fighting demons and is sometimes shown with three heads and six arms.
Today, some dance groups — such as the group from VHS and LMS — have transformed the rigid and serious religious ritual of the dance of the Third Prince in a high energy dance activity augmented by electronic music. The dance is now a lively pop culture activity that is popular at religious carnivals.
For LMS teacher Cammie Traylor, the performances and the fair really bring the books to life for the local students.
“When the [Taiwanese] students come, they also visit the schools,” said Traylor. “They come and show their culture and we get to show our culture as well.”
Traylor went to Taiwan last summer with a group of high school and college students. One of the classrooms she visited was Ku’s.
This year, guests will be able to enjoy several stations of entertainment through several different cultures such as Africa, East Asia (including Japan, Korea and China), Southeast Asia, India, Taiwan and more.
The Azalea International Folk Fair will open to the public today from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Door admission for the show is $6 for ages 10 and up and $3 for ages 5 to 9. Dinner will be an additional cost.
The James H. Rainwater Conference Center is located at 1 Meeting Place.