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Cultures from all over the world were on display Thursday as students from Hardin and Nelson counties gathered for the Music and Arts Cultural Center of Learning Special Arts Festival at Pritchard Community Center in Elizabethtown.
More than 215 special needs students from the Hardin County, Elizabethtown Independent, Fort Knox, Bardstown Independent and Nelson County school systems were dressed in party garb to learn about cultures ranging from Spanish to Japanese.
Lorinda Jones, music therapist with Music Therapy Services of Central Kentucky, said the festival was developed to expose students to the arts.
“It gives them an opportunity to (be) hands-on with specific projects,” she said. “It gives them an opportunity they may not have otherwise.”
The theme, “Around the World,” allowed students to experience different cultures in a safe environment, coordinator Tiffany Peters said.
“It’s really a day to come and have fun and experience things they might not get to in a regular classroom,” she said. “It’s a day where they can be themselves and not worry about the stigmas and stereotypes.”
Students had a chance to create African rain sticks, maracas, Indian masks and Native American vests using everyday items such as paper plates, paper grocery bags, beans, staples and macaroni. They also were able to watch and participate in demonstrations about belly dancing and Japanese and Spanish culture.
Students’ art work made prior to the event also was on display.
Lewis Tippett, 11, who attends Meadow View Elementary School, made a maraca and decorated it with markers, stickers and streamers.
“It makes a lot of noise,” he said as he shook it.
Timmy Griffin, 11, and Zakari Sanders, 9, of Morningside Elementary School, enjoyed crafting vests and were looking forward to putting personal touches on them.
“It’s different than the classroom,” Timmy said.
Zakari enjoyed listening to the music as he worked, he said.
Melody Ayers, 11, of New Highland Elementary School, participated in a belly-dancing demonstration with the Servanti Tribal Belly Dancers.
“I got to shimmy,” she said.
Melody’s teacher, Georgia Gordon, said her students enjoy attending the festival each year because it lets them apply curriculum they learned in the classroom in an interesting way.
“Some kids are surprising me,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for them to see the various aspects of different countries and have fun while they learn. They’re really taking an interest.”
Yuka Izumiya from Elizabethtown Japanese School sponsored a dance and drum demonstration. She said her group enjoys giving back to the community that has accepted them, especially when children are involved.
“These children love it,” she said about students playing the drums and dancing. “As long as they’re smiling, we’ll take that as a success.”
Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.