A parade of pride

HOUGHTON – Bill Deephouse and Marcia Goodrich found a place to sit on Shelden Avenue Saturday to watch the Parade of Nations, but they were a little surprised there were relatively few people joining them a few minutes before the 11 a.m. start of the parade, which this year is themed “Global Variation in One Location.”

Deephouse, who is from Hancock, said he’s been to only a few of the parades, but he liked what he saw.

“I enjoy the heck out of it,” he said.

The PON is a Michigan Technological University event, and Goodrich said she’s been a Tech employee for about 20 years. She’s been to 10 parades and appreciates the fact it’s a celebration of the cultural diversity of the university.

“They’re always lots of fun,” she said of the parade. “It makes me so happy to see all the students so happy with their culture and sharing it with us.”

The parade started in front of Finlandia University’s Quincy Green on Quincy Street, then traveled across the Portage Lake Lift Bridge to Shelden Avenue in Houghton. Marchers turned down Isle Royale Street and headed to the Dee Stadium.

Deephouse said he and Goodrich were also going to the multicultural festival at the Dee Stadium after the parade and intended to get some of the food being offered.

“We’re hungry,” he said. “We skipped breakfast.”

Sarah Hoekstra of Chassell said she was attending the PON for the first time since she was a child because of a little prodding from 2- and 4-year-old girls.

“My nieces wanted to come,” she said.

The crowd lining Shelden Avenue and the Portage Lake Lift Bridge to watch the parade as it came through Houghton eventually filled out to traditional levels.

This year, 69 countries had representatives in the parade, including Australia, which was represented for the first time. There was food from 17 cultures at the Dee Stadium. The multicultural festival included dance and music, also.

Doug Patrick of Gay said he was attending the PON and multicultural festival for the third time, and he liked the fact people from so many different cultures were coming together for the event.

“I think it’s really interesting these countries send their students to Tech,” he said.

If the international students enjoy themselves while they’re at Tech, they’ll have good memories of the United States to take home with them, Patrick said.

The crowd at the Dee was very large Saturday, and Les Cook, Tech vice President for student affairs and advancement, said the size of the crowd at the multicultural festival is often related to the number of people attending the PON.

“People come out for the parade every year,” he said. “It’s growing every year. It’s like bringing the world to our community every year.”

Darnishia Slade, chairwoman of the Parade of Nations, said she was impressed with the number of people in the Dee.

“Every year I’m always more amazed,” she said.

Slade said she is also pleased the event has been able to continue to be no cost to those attending, which is due to the support of local business supporters.

“That’s what helps us keep it free,” she said.

Brady Olson of Houghton has been attending PON and the multicultural festival for about 20 years since he was a child.

“It’s always a good experience,” he said. “It’s something new every year. I like seeing all the countries together.”

Olson was attending the event with Kelly Poelstra and their two girls, and the two like having the the girls experience the cultural diversity.

Poelstra, who is from the Toronto, Canada area, said she walked last year for Finlandia University and she carried the Zimbabwe flag.

Bob Wenc, chairman for booths at the multicultural festival, said although there is no way to know for certain, he estimated there were about 4,000 people in the Dee Saturday, which would be a record if accurate.

It’s possible the multicultural festival will be able to expand next year, either inside the Dee or outside with tents.

“Next year is our 25th (anniversary),” Wenc said. “Of course we’ve got to be bigger and better.”