Students gathered at the 2011 Multicultural Festival on Saturday, May 21. The festival featured performances from groups throughout campus.

At any given moment last Saturday, Oakes Lower Lawn was packed. Sixteen fraternities and campus organizations were serving up lunch to attendees from 12 to 6 p.m., and nine different dance troupes performed on stage. Members of the campus community all came together to celebrate diversity within UC Santa Cruz.

This year’s Multicultural Festival, “Rhymes, Rhythms and Roots: Solidarity Through Action,” was the 32nd annual event, and according the UCSC Campus Events Calendar, 1500 were estimated to attend.

Event organizer Diana Gamez, a first-year psychology and Latin American and Latino studies major, said she was happy with the way the event turned out.

“We had a very good turnout this year,” she said. “I had no idea what to expect. It was definitely a learning experience.”

Coordinated by Student Organization Advising and Resources, the festival sought to bring together and promote awareness among all different races, ethnicities and cultures through the best ways possible: food, music and dance.

Members of one of the largest student ethnic organizations on campus, the Indian Student Organization (ISO), danced in Bollywood, East Indian hip-hop and Bhangrā styles.

Harbir Mahal, a second-year proposed sociology and global economics major and ISO member, danced Bhangrā, a traditional folk dance from Punjab, India.

Mahal said that dancing in the style of Bhangrā helps her hold on to her culture.

“It helps me with connecting to my roots,” she said. “It keeps my culture going. When I hear the music, I can’t help but move.”

Students walked across the field, some tasting and trying out different dishes while others sat in front of the trussed-up stage and watched the myriad of dances presented throughout the day.

Third-year sociology major Nancy Chai said the audience this year was much more pumped to be there.

“All the food to share and experiences to learn about,” she said, “I like them all. It’s sad that its only a one day cultural experience when it should be year ‘round.”

Some members of the Chinese Student Association (CSA) danced hip-hop under the group name “No Access Allowed.” Performer and third-year psychology major Kelvin Chu explained they were so named because with all the dance groups, it was often hard to find a place to practice.

“We practice anywhere we can,” he said. “It’s fun and it’s a good way to relieve stress. Whenever you’re on stage, all your problems just melt away.”

Anyone can participate in their group, he said.

“It’s mainly Chinese students, but it’s open for anyone,” he said. “We just want to promote Chinese culture around campus.”

Los Mejicas performed Mexican folk dance, with the female performers dressed in traditional nayarit costas, large flowing multi-colored dresses. Members of Sabrosura danced to salsa, bachata, merengue and modern American rap and pop, and those in traditional Chinese dance wore cheongsams, one-piece dresses that fused Chinese styles and modern influences.

The event ended with a performance by Carne Cruda, a post-Latin rock and reggae band featuring Damdara, a singer touring from Brazil. By the end of the concert, the crowd of students had made a conga line, danced on stage and raucously sang about bananas.