Around the World on a Saturday Afternoon

by Wynn Madrigal

There’s really nothing like travel to open your eyes to different ways of thinking and living. But if, like me, you can’t just hit the road when you feel like it anymore because it would mean carting along your spouse, children and their gazillion accessories, then a little local cultural festival can be just the thing to satisfy your travel bug.

Having lived overseas for several years, I knew that when I had kids I would want to share with them my love of travel and different cultures. This past weekend I got a chance to do that – without even having to leave my neighborhood.

On Saturday, the four of us — me, my two young daughters, and their Grammie Shirley – packed into the car and headed out to the Mercer County Cultural Festival, which promised food stalls, crafts and entertainment presented  by some of the many different ethnic groups that call Mercer County home.

When we got there, a reggae band was playing on the stage and the smell of jerk chicken from the Jamaican stand was so pungent I could almost taste it. We were torn – what to do first? Dig into pierogies, Indian curry, or moussaka, or go shake our bon-bons by the stage?

There was so much to see – and eat! We shared a Cuban sandwich while watching some Irish line dancers, and wolfed down some samosas while listening to Mariachi music. Every time we saw or tasted something new, I would stop and point out which country it came from to my oldest daughter, Maxine, in a pocket-sized world atlas I had brought along. I showed her where she and her sister were born – in Thailand, when I was working abroad – and where the hat her Grammie brought her was made: in Peru.

Maxine modeling her new hat at the festival.

She showed off the few words of Spanish she knows for a churro salesman, and even though she’s not quite 4, it seems like she’s really starting to grasp that there is a huge world out there. This is not her first cultural festival – she’s been to a Buddhist one, a Hmong one and a Kwanzaa fair, among others, and it will definitely not be her last.

Given a choice between taking them to a McDonald’s Play Place or one of these festivals on a weekend, I’ll always choose the latter. When it comes down to it, I think travel has made the most impact on my life and way of thinking, so I hope one day she and her sister will be inspired to spread their wings and have some crazy adventures abroad, just like I did – as long as they get their shots first and promise to email me every day!

Lead Photo by Ashley McKee/The Oklahoman


Wynn Madrigal is a freelance writer and editor now based in Hightstown, NJ, after working as a publishing executive and social science researcher in Southeast Asia for several years. She has two toddler daughters for whom she is saving her collection of Kids Discover magazines.