Concord, NH

Contact Name
Jessica Fogg
Project Dates
2nd or 3rd week of September
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2015
Event, Networking, Workforce Development
The Concord Multicultural Festival is an annual one day celebration of the cultural diversity in NH’s capital region. Located in one of NH’s refugee resettlement cities, the Multicultural Festival invites new community members to be part of the local economy by sharing their cultural products of music, dance, storytelling, craft, and food as vendors and performers. The festival engages volunteers representing 18-20 community partners for six months prior to the event in collaborative planning of how artistic and cultural expression at a big outdoor party can increase racial and ethnic tolerance. During the planning process the committee representing community and social service organizations become aware of the arts as an additional tool for social and economic empowerment.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
The original goal of the festival 14 years ago was to raise local awareness of those newly arriving in our community and increase racial and ethnic tolerance through music, dance, storytelling, craft, and ethnic cuisine. The outdoor celebration allows for the cultural and artistic products of community members to be an inviting opportunity for engagement and empathy among diverse groups who may not otherwise interact.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
The goals for the festival have evolved as some of the important successes have been evident not just in the experience of those attending the event, but also in the experience of the performers, vendors, and in the 6 month community collaboration and planning of the festival. Developing community conversations and connections around the ways the arts can be a catalyst for economic and social growth is now a main goal of the event. Another important goal of the festival is to empower new community members to see their cultural products as a worthy contribution to the local social and economic fabric of the community. New community members may have no experience in cultural norms of economic transactions, food preparation, and responsibilities as a hired contractor so making sure that experience is well supported is a large goal for the festival.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
The festival is organized by a community committee, the Greater Concord Area Task Force Against Racism and Intolerance. The committee has a lead festival organizer and many volunteers that meet annually to develop working groups for performers, craft vendors, food vendors, educational activities, and community outreach. Everyone on the committee is a volunteer and many nonprofit and social service agencies are represented including: Ascentria Care Alliance, Bhutanese Community of NH, NH Department of Health & Human Services, Creative Concord, InTown Concord, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Latinos Unidos De New Hampshire, Lincoln Financial, Mira Coalition, New American Africans, NH State Council on the Arts, NH Department of Cultural Resources, Unitarian Universalist Church, Welcoming NH, and individual community members.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
The festival is a result of collaborative community planning over a 6 month period. Over 14 years the festival has had several lead organizers all under the Greater Concord Area Task Force Against Racism and Intolerance. The committee builds on an analysis of the previous festival and discussion of goals that are informed be each community partner. Working groups are established and volunteer committee members take responsibility for different aspects of the event. The event relies on the investment of community partners to annually have a representative on the planning committee. Past positive experiences by the larger community fuel the engagement of volunteers to plan, vendors to participate and perform, and annual increased attendance.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
Over time the need for flexibility in every aspect of the event has been institutionalized as the date, budget, vendors, participants, and planning committee can change. Excellent record keeping of committee work is needed in order for new partners to pick up aspects of responsibility. The ongoing development of successful relationships, collaborations, and understanding of diverse agendas and goals among community partners is essential to reaching the final event.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
The biggest obstacle has been having the festival be run entirely by volunteers and not a nonprofit that could sustain a revolving budget for the subsequent festivals. This obstacle is what makes the event successful. Another challenge the festival addresses is the lack of experience and resources many of the performers and vendors have as refugees with cultural norms in economic transactions, food preparation, and expectations as a contractor.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Having a strong lead festival organizer who can convene the diverse community partners helps to move the amorphous nature of the planning committee from an obstacle to a resource. The leader needs to acknowledge the various goals of each community partner and facilitate the group identification of desired community impact. The varied skill sets and experience of each community partner in working with new American community members is instrumental in predicting and providing support that will be needed for new Americans to successfully participate in this economic opportunity to share their cultural products.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Start Early
Be open and adaptable to new ideas and challenges
Take time to thoroughly listen to each partner’s interest in being involved and their skill set they bring to the table before identifying goals or work responsibilities.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
The engagement in planning and participation of the event has annually increased over 14 years with over 500 attendees visiting Main St. Concord on a rainy Saturday in 2014. Non- rainy years see many more attendees as the festival has become a cultural staple in the calendar of concerted community events that strive to bring crowds to downtown Concord. Attendees, presenters, and vendors who may never engage otherwise convene over the shared connection of the arts. Many social service organizations now view arts and culture as a successful tool for community integration and positive empowerment for new Americans. The vendors and performers gain confidence and experience in economic transactions and cultural norms regarding being a hired contractor.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
High rate of return and positive feedback from attendees, presenters, vendors, and volunteer festival planners.
Increased word of mouth knowledge of event
Increased media coverage that shares the cultural products and awareness of the benefits of diversity.
How did you measure this success or progress?
Attendance numbers; amount of returning vendors & performers; economic impact for vendors; feedback from participants, vendors, planners; solicited responses on what visitors enjoyed at the festival; numbers of participants in hands on activities; numbers of festival programs distributed; festival analysis and debriefing among organizing committee.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
The festival relies on its adaptability and flexibility in planning and implementation each year. Some unexpected impacts have been identified above, but each year those impacts are analyzed to refine what are the successes and challenges experienced in order to inform goals. The largest unexpected impact over the years has been the importance of providing a positive experience through the arts for the new American vendors and performers. The relationships and community connections developed through the 6 month planning process is as an important impact of the festival as the experience offered to downtown visitors during the event.
CCX Workshop Handout