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The City Journals

Twin Peaks showcases food, dance, tradition from multiple cultures

May 02, 2019 02:22PM ● By Julie Slama

Fourth-grader Nuno Rocha shares about his native country, Brazil, with the community at Twin Peaks Culture Night. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Fourth-grader Nuno Rocha moved from Brazil to Utah 14 months ago. 

“Almost everything is different,” Nuno said. “When I came, I didn’t know the language, the food here is different, the school buildings are bigger and there are computers that work in them.”

But what made the transition easier was his teacher.

“She showed me everything. She helped me learn the language, the computers, my education. Brazil doesn’t have a lot of money to support education, so schools are more crowded, run down. We were behind in our learning,” he said.

This was part of the message Nuno was sharing with hundreds of students and families who participated in Twin Peaks’ sixth annual cultural fair.

“We build a sense of community when we allow families to showcase their cultures,” said Paige Janzen, who has organized the past six years of the event before sharing it this year with Christina Linke. “We meet the families and learn about their countries and backgrounds.”

Often, that comes along with tasting dishes from the different countries. Amongst the samples were Scottish fudge, Italian gelato, German apfelstrudel, English biscuits (actually cookies in American English), American hot dogs and cheese balls, with cheese just made in Brazil, which Nuno brought for classmates to try.

“The food is better in Brazil (than in Utah),” he said. “There are more tropical fruits, many that aren’t here.”

First-grader Martin Amendola brought his dad to scoop up Italian gelato for families to try.

“It’s a good opportunity to discover Italian traditions; kids can discover Italy has good stuff,” said Francesco Amendola, who owns three Sweetaly gelato stores and added that gelato is a much healthier option to ice cream.

Fifth-grader Mardi Peterson has distant relatives from Germany plus her dad worked at a German restaurant, so, with her parents, Michael and Christina, they decided to support the cultural fair.

“We wanted to share a bit about the culture and food,” Michael Peterson said.

While students asked questions about the spaztle press, Christina told them it took four hours to make the strudel that was shared, adding the secret was in the dough.

Families mingled in amongst the booths of displays from Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, Hawaii, India, Iraq, Italy, Nepal, Portugal, Scotland, South Korea, the United States and more, pausing only to watch dancers from Hawaii and Nepal perform.

Sixth-grade teacher Anna Kendall said she appreciated the bonding of the event.

“The dancing is fantastic,” Kendall said. “I love that through the cultural fair, we are learning stories of the students and their families we might not have known otherwise. It’s wonderful when parents come to share their culture in classrooms and students ask questions about their traditions. I love having more role models so kids are seeing many successful people from other countries. I love the diversity. I just love my community.”

Janzen estimates there are “at least 20 different cultures from Mexican to Iranian” represented at Twin Peaks, which “brings diversity, understanding, and acceptance that we all know each other and are part of one another.”

Principal Julie Lorentzon said the school celebrates its melting pot community.

“Tonight, we’ve had groups of performers, people sharing food and others learning and appreciating our cultures; it’s been a fun event,” she said. “There are so many different cultures at our school. Look around, we have England, Spanish, Portuguese, Iranian, Brazilian, Polynesian and a little of everything else represented here. It’s a real community event.”

Taking part in the cultural night is optional, but families are invited to take part.

Fourth-grader Callye Linke helped with making Scottish fudge and creating a poster board for the booth she displayed with her mother, Christina.

“I love that my daughter is trying different food, learning about other cultures, about their dance, music, way of life,” Christina Linke said. “When Paige said she was stepping down of being in charge of cultural night and needed someone to take over, I volunteered. I love this event. It’s great for both our kids and our community.”

Parent Shannon Helm, who brought her three elementary-age students, said they were excited to see the talents of their classmates and she was surprised at the diversity of booths on hand.

“I’m new to Utah so I haven’t been before,” she said. “But I just love it.”