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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Students share their backgrounds at Hometown Expo

Town residents, students and faculty braved an unseasonably blustery spring day on April 16 to share their diverse experiences at the first annual Hometown Expo. The Expo offered the chance for students to share what home looks like for them, whether defined as a town, region, or country, through hands-on activities and displays.

The event was planned by Sarah Beisner `22, the SGA Services and Resources Coordinator. Beisner drew her inspiration from Summerfest, a public festival hosted by the College each June, featuring presentations from professors like “The Biology and Basics of Brewing,” live music, theatre and dance performances and hands-on projects for all ages. But despite that event being hosted on campus, because of its summer date, only a fraction of students are in the area and able to attend. So, after experiencing Summerfest, Beisner sought to create further opportunities for interface and exchange between the College and the town of Grinnell, which culminated in the Hometown Expo.

People in Grinnell share their hometown with us in one way or another every day. But rarely do I feel like students engage meaningfully with people in the community -Sarah Smith, director of outreach and events

To plan and produce the Expo, Beisner collaborated with the Office of Community Partnerships, recruiting students to host display tables while Sarah Smith, director of outreach and events, and Morgan Niner, a member of AmeriCorps VISTA, coordinated logistics and developed marketing for the event.

“People in Grinnell share their hometown with us in one way or another every day,” said Beisner. “But rarely do I feel like students engage meaningfully with people in the community.”

The Hometown Expo provided an opportunity for both students and Grinnell residents to share their unique backgrounds and experiences with one another, while also highlighting common ground. “We all bring something unique and exciting that creates vibrancy in this community,” wrote Smith in an email to the S&B.

During the afternoon of the Expo, that vibrancy was on full display. Visitors were treated to the music of the Grinnell Children’s Choir and the local Too Many Strings Band, whose performances added a further layer of cheer to the day. Throughout the sunny yet crisp afternoon, visiting students and Grinnell residents traveled between tables sharing local activities, snacks and fun facts.

At the east end of Ward field, visitors could practice mock-milking a cardboard cow at the Wisconsin table, hosted by Mary Binzley and McKenna Doherty, both `22, both of Monona, Wisconsin. Binzley, in an “America’s Dairyland” t-shirt, said that the activity was inspired by a school field trip that she and Doherty had been on in grade school.

Although they all call different towns home, students Priyanka Dangol `22, Meghna Adhikari `22, Shrey Agarwal `24 and Sam Pokharel `25 joined together to share the culture of broader Nepal at the Expo. They taught visitors how to play gatti, a game in which one tosses a stone into the air before trying to pick up another while catching the first. Aaron Blanchard, a 7th grader at Grinnell Middle School, recognized the game, having played a similar one in class. Along with 8th grader Elizabeth Kelly-Chown, the two quickly proved their hand-eye coordination superior to mine, as we tossed and scrambled for the stones.

At the expo, learning opportunities abounded. Fun fact lay at the forefront — did you know that Salt Lake City, Utah, allegedly has the highest Jell-o consumption rate in the world, or that one could travel from Grinnell to Sacramento, Cali. on the early transcontinental railroad? — I didn’t, until I visited the tables of Justin Richard `22 and Daniel Rosenbloom `23, and Melanie Holst `22, respectively. First years Gloria Kuebee and Bianca Morcho, both `25, created a game of Kahoot trivia on the country of Cameroon, helping visitors to learn more about Cameroonian history, geography and culture.

The event drew visitors from across campus, town and even international borders. Jane Bustin, who attended the expo with her husband, daughter, Erin Bustin, the director of the Grinnell Children’s Choir, and granddaughter Nora, was visiting from her home in Nova Scotia. After two and a half years of visits were put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she was glad to be back, and to take part in “something different” on campus.

Sun Yuvachitti `24, a student visitor at the Expo, echoed this sentiment, saying he was glad to see members of the town and school coming together for the festivities. Sometimes “there can be a bit of a divide,” between town residents and College students, said Yuvachitti, with everyone “just doing their own thing,” within independent social circles. Over the course of the afternoon of the Hometown Expo, these social circles had an opportunity to overlap, as visitors sipped chai, swayed to the music and learned more about each other.

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