Polynesian dance troupe coming to Oregon's Riverfront Park June 29
Salem, OREGON — Tasi and Craig Keener called American Samoa home until they moved to Oregon in 1999 with their five children.
Looking for better career opportunities, they were focused on finding jobs and raising their family.
Tasi was born and raised in Samoa, where she spent most of her time dancing. Focused on other endeavors, she never planned to have a dance troupe of her own.
That is, until she went to World Beat Festival.
World Beat was started in 1998 by Mona Hayes and Kathleen Fish, two moms that used their love of international culture as inspiration to start a multicultural festival.
World Beat is a weekend-long celebration of more than 70 cultures through music, food, performances, exhibits and activities hosted by the Salem Multicultural Institute.
A NEW BEGINNING
A friend had mentioned World Beat, then in it's third year, to Tasi and Craig knowing they would enjoy it. So, in 2000, they attended the festival for the first time with their family.
"We fell in love," Tasi said. “I like the idea of having all the cultures there in one place celebrating each other.”
When they moved to Oregon, Tasi and Craig noticed that people did not know much about Samoan arts and culture.
Inspired, Tasi and Craig decided to participate the next year with their children in hopes of introducing Oregon to Samoan dance.
That was the beginning of Paradise of Samoa, a nonprofit Polynesian traveling dance troupe led by Tasi and Craig made up of children, teens and adults of many cultures.
Paradise of Samoa started with Tasi and Craig's children, but soon other parents began to ask if their children could join.
This year's cultural focus is Mexico, and Fish said that they have been working with Casa de la Cultura Tlanese and a Mexico Cultural Focus Advisory Committee for input on how to showcase the culture.
Special performances include singer and songwriter Edna Vazquez, who will perform at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, July 1. Big Foot Mojo and Mbrascatu will also perform on Friday, June 29.
Festivalgoers can experience more than 160 performances, exhibitors and vendors at this year's World Beat, going into its 21st year, along with being able to make items including Chinese paper lanterns, pinatas and African animal masks.
World Beat also features a children's parade, dragon boat racing and a crowd favorite, fire dancing, which will take place on Friday and Saturday night.
“It is such a blessing for Salem, and Oregon, to have a festival of this magnitude for everybody," Tasi said. “It is such a great place to be.”