Attend today's unique African Marketat Augustana Lutheran Church, and you will never again think of Africans as a generic people. That's the goal of the event, says Phil Gazley of Lutheran Family Services, a sponsoring organization that provides resettlement services to refugee groups from around the globe: to increase local awareness of the myriad African cultures thriving in the metro area. "Even I'm still learning, in terms of what groups are actually out there," Gazley admits. But, in truth, he's got a better handle than most of us. He rattles off an impressive list of the names and situations of each group, beginning with the Sudanese, who have been in the media spotlight only recently, in spite of Sudan's twenty-year history of genocidal strife. Most are members of the opposing Dinka and Nuer tribes and have arrived here in the last five years. There are two groups of Somalis, as well -- a general population that fled to refugee camps in Kenya in the early '90s before dispersing to other countries, and the Bantu, one of Somalia's last remaining tribal ethnic groups.
"The Bantu were taken out of Tanzania in the 1800s as slaves to work on banana plantations owned by Italians," Gazley explains. "As a result, they love eating pasta." He recalls a recent visit to a Bantu home: "Their cupboard was just crammed full of spaghetti. Usually when we help these people get settled, we like to make sure they have a colander and big pot." But in Africa, life for the Bantu, victims of bias, has been no plate of ravioli. Miraculously, such prejudices don't seem to have followed members of opposing communities when they re-established in the metro area. "We don't face those kinds of issues here," he says. "People really get along."
There are also Ugandans, Ethiopians, Mauritanians, Ghanaians, Liberians and more, many of whom will join today's event. "It's a real celebration of diversity," Gazley says. "We hope to introduce people to all the different fragrances of African cultures." To that end, a whole palette of African dishes will be served up, along with a Ugandan fashion show, Somali and Sudanese dance performances and Sudanese gospel music sung in Arabic. Handmade jewelry, crafts and traditional clothing will be for sale, and for kids, there'll be face painting, a mankala tournament, hair braiding and henna body painting.
The market, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Augustana, 5000 East Alameda Avenue, is free. Call 303-980-5400. -- Susan Froyd
Exotic Flavors The Boulder Asian Festival roars SUN, 8/22
At 11 a.m. today, the street performers on the Pearl Street Mall will meet their match. That's when a 75-foot dragon will weave its way up and down the outdoor shopping area. And though it might freak out some Boulderites, the fire-breather will be made of fabric and carried by students from the Shaolin Hung Mei Kung Fu Association, a Colorado organization that promotes Chinese martial and cultural arts. The beast's arrival will signal the start of the Boulder Asian Festival.
The non-profit Boulder Asian Pacific Alliance started the festival ten years ago with the intention of bringing "the history and flavors of all the different Asian communities" to Boulder, says event co-chair Brenda Pearson. For this year's festival, Alliance members will employ a multi-tiered approach.
First, they've recruited more than seventy vendors to sell items ranging from embroidered Vietnamese tablecloths to Chinese calligraphic art. Second, they will tempt tastebuds with food from nations all over the globe -- Korea, Thailand and Nepal, to name a few. And finally, as if the balloon-animal guy won't be made envious enough by the opener, they'll bust out the entertainment. Denver Taiko, a Japanese drum ensemble, and Gamelan Tunas Mekar, an orchestra that specializes in Indonesian music, will add sonic splendor.
The trip around the world will last for two days in front of the Boulder County Courthouse, between 13th and 14th streets on the mall; admission is free. Call 303-499-0108 or visit www.bapaweb.org for more information. -- Caitlin Smith
Hail, Caesar SUN, 8/22
To anchovy or not to anchovy? That is one question the Colorado Chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food will pose to top toques from six restaurants in the sixth annual Greatest Caesar in Denver Competition & Silent Auction. The potential for creativity with the traditional tossed combo -- romaine lettuce, raw egg, the signature dressing -- led Colorado's AIWF to choose the Caesar salad as the contest's featured fare. Variables are not merely a question of fishies or no fishies. Past competitors have fashioned croutons from scratch, served parmesan in curlicues and tossed in crispy capers for zest. This year's lineup includes head chefs from Sambuca, Panzano, Brasserie Rouge, Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana and Restaurant Aix.
For $35 to $40, would-be rabbits can sample each eatery's greens and appetizers, and those will be topped off with a catered dessert. Participants also get to vote on which leaf mixture is best.
The Walnut Foundry Event Center, 3002 Walnut Street, will host tonight's tasting, which starts at 6 p.m. and includes a silent auction. Proceeds from the auction benefit an AIWF scholarship fund that helps send Colorado residents to local culinary schools.