Music, food fill Wright Park for 2014 Ethnic Fest

It doesn’t rain on Ethnic Fest.

There have been brief sprinkles throughout the years, but nothing more than “dust control,” coordinator Lori Raisch said of the annual arts and culture celebration in downtown Tacoma’s Wright Park.

And with highs in the 80s and blue skies, Sunday didn’t break tradition on the last day of this year’s festival, in its 28th year.

“God loves Ethnic Fest,” Raisch said by way of explanation.

And Raisch does too. So much so that she organized the event remotely this year. She moved to Florida, and traveled back to Tacoma for the weekend, to oversee the festival held Saturday and Sunday.

“To see grandparents dancing with grandchildren, the passing down of the ethnic traditions, that is very important to me,” she said. “Learning to appreciate other cultural traditions.”

By about 2 p.m. Sunday, roughly 5,000 people had ventured to Wright Park for the event, Raisch estimated.

Booths offering food, nonprofit services and shopping filled the park, along with music stages.

Raisch joked that seismic activity can probably be recorded each year because of all the people who dance when the gospel performers take the stage, one of the last of about 30 acts at the festival.

That’s what Tacoma resident Cheryl McCain was waiting for, as she sat on the lawn in front of one of the festival’s stages Sunday.

“I want to see how they get down,” she said with a laugh.

In addition to the sprayground at the park, and the shopping booths, the cuisine was what stuck with her son about this year’s festival.

“We tried alligator,” 12-year-old De’Sean Mason said. “It was pretty good. I didn’t want to try it at first.”

The pastries at one stand were particularly good, and stopping after eating just one was difficult, Olympia resident Terry Rupp said.

“I arrived hungry,” she said. “The Hawaiian doughnuts, oh my gosh.”

And of the festival in general: “Very kid friendly. Not crowded. It’s just the perfect way to spend a day.”

Antoinette Miller, also of Olympia, was a fan of the elephant ears and funnel cakes.

“Because I never get that on a regular basis,” she said. “It’s just a good place to come to meet people, have good food.”

Tacoma Councilwoman Victoria Woodards solicited recommendations from the crowd for which food booths she should visit, as she emceed the event, admitting she’s partial to the roasted corn stand.

Woodards has helped with the festival for about 15 years.

“It really celebrates the cultural diversity that makes Tacoma and Pierce County so rich,” she said. “It’s food, it’s arts and crafts, it’s information, it’s dance, it’s music. ... It’s like this whole big family gets together in Wright Park, and that’s what I love about it. We just get together and have a party, celebrating each other.”