Family bonding: A guide to celebrating Mother’s Day through cultural exploration

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Finding an interesting gift for mom (or from mom), like this judgmental giraffe by Troy Argenbright, will be easy at one of the many area festivals this weekend. Photo courtesy of the Crozet Arts & Crafts Festival Finding an interesting gift for mom (or from mom), like this judgmental giraffe by Troy Argenbright, will be easy at one of the many area festivals this weekend. Photo courtesy of the Crozet Arts & Crafts Festival

We all have moms and some of you out there are even mothers yourself. So, it makes sense that we celebrate moms, if for no other reason than their sheer abundance. Add to that their well-meaning advice and ill-advised fashion recommendations, and you’re looking at a Hallmark holiday that’s hard to ignore: Mother’s Day. While celebrating, why not swap out brunch for curry in the park? Or trade in that flower arrangement for a hand-crafted bronze bracelet? This week, two annual festivals offer creative ways to celebrate with your mom—or the kids who call you mom.

Charlottesville Festival of Cultures

The Charlottesville Festival of Cultures takes place on May 9, transforming Lee Park into a bustling global commons. The annual event features handicrafts, cultural exhibits, cooking demonstrations and live music and dance performances.

In all, the festival will highlight approximately a dozen craft vendors and 15 cultural exhibits, ranging from Bhutan to Argentina. A variety of food trucks are slated to sate your appetite and this year’s cooking demonstrations provide a chance to learn how to make your own Algerian cookies and chickpea curry. On top of it all, more than 10 groups will perform throughout the day, representing everything from Mexi-lachian music and the Tibetan Children’s Choir to Cumbia, Native American and Morris dancing.

“When we look in our own community and around the world, we can see so many problems,” said festival coordinator Zakira Beasley. “The festival is an opportunity to celebrate how, when we get to know each other, we can move beyond fear to the possibility of understanding.”

Beasley was drawn to the festival through her work at the Adult Learning Center, a program of Charlottesville City Schools and the main sponsor of the Festival of Cultures. “The festival became a way to celebrate the people who work so hard to learn the language and culture of Charlottesville,” she said. “I wanted my friends to meet these people and appreciate all they have to offer from their cultures and life experiences.” In order to help facilitate this exchange, attendees can earn stamps in their Festival of Cultures passport by visiting exhibits to learn cultural facts or a different language.

A large part of the festival also focuses on resource-sharing. “There will be information about educational opportunities, signing up for a library card, learning about rights as a resident, receiving counseling and more,” said Beasley. “This is also an opportunity for longtime residents to find a place to volunteer.”

The Festival of Cultures itself is one of these opportunities, inviting residents and recent immigrants alike to volunteer or serve on the planning committee. “New immigrants are arriving in Charlottesville every year, and we always make an extra effort to invite new arrivals to participate,” Beasley added. “Some of our exhibitors are very new to our country and I think it’s brave of them to share at the festival.”

Crozet Arts & Crafts Festival

The Crozet Arts & Crafts Festival takes place on May 9 and 10. Now in its 35th year, the festival will cover almost two acres of Claudius Crozet Park with fine art, crafts, artisanal foods and more. And whether you’re new to the festival or have experienced its wonders before, 2015 promises something fresh thanks to its festival director Amanda Polson.

Though new to town, Polson is an old hand when it comes to festivals, working with similar events for more than eight years. “A real challenge is to find the focus of this event and just make it the best it can be,” she said. “We have more exhibitors than there have been recently, which will be exciting to local patrons who have come to expect only familiar faces.”

The festival is a wonderful chance to wander the park while admiring hand-crafted hammocks from Twin Oaks, pottery by Nancy Ross or Carla Pillsbury, and unique wooden sculptures by Scott Deming, among many, many other artists and craftspeople. Polson estimates that she received 150 applications to exhibit this spring, with about 120 of those selected for the event. The festival also offers craft demonstrations, including silk marbling and pottery as well as the intriguing offering of a friction fire demonstration.

A new culinary arts section will feature regional food and drink vendors as well as artisanal food items and the Claudius Crozet Park cafe will serve up coffee, along with details about the park and its ongoing operations, which are funded in large part by the bi-annual festival.

Live performances will include the Brooklyn-based band Roosevelt Dime as well as local favorites Red and the Romantics and the Western Albemarle High School Jazz Band, among others. Kid-friendly performers, Kim and Jimbo Cary, will also make an appearance, accompanying the face painting and hands-on art activities that will provide plenty of entertainment for mommy’s little monsters, ahem, darlings.

American Craft Beer Week at Local Breweries

After a weekend of family bonding, it’s thoroughly understandable if you need a break from motherly advice or simply want to relive the days before you had kids of your own. You’re in luck: American Craft Beer Week runs May 11-17. Plenty of breweries in Charlottesville, as well as in nearby Nelson County, will be celebrating with all sorts of events, including live music at Three Notch’d Brewing Company, brewery tours at Wild Wolf Brewing Company, special beer pairings at Devils Backbone Brewing Company and more. Check individual breweries for details.

Have an alternative celebration for Mother’s Day? Tell us about it in the comments.