Story and photos by Matt Benoit and Reed Klein
The Syre Student Center Auditorium was, in a way, the focus of the entire world on Feb. 25, as the International Friendship Club’s marquee event, International Night, filled the auditorium to capacity with exotic flags, food, music and dance performances, and the constant din of international chatter.
“It’s crazy,” said Kelly Kester, International Programs Director at Whatcom. “It’s gotta be the biggest student-run event on campus.”
Held annually at Whatcom for close to 20 years, Kester said International Night has taken on a life of its own despite a lack of advertising, even to the point of outgrowing its capacity. He estimated that between 400 and 500 people were coming and going throughout the course of this year’s event, which lasted from 6 p.m. until just after 9:30 p.m.
Food lines stretched out of the auditorium entrance at some points, and Kester said he saw some people in line for “at least an hour.” There was still food at night’s end, however, in part thanks to Nimnual Toom, who owns the “Thai House Restaurant” in Bellingham. Kester said the restaurant donated a lot of food; specifically, large quantities of Pad Thai noodles. “It was really nice,” he said.
From belly dancing to choir singing, classical music to a hip-hop performance, International Night once again showcased the talents of Whatcom’s diverse student body.
Danik Karpov, 19, who came to the event with his friend, Whatcom student Dzmitry Ryzhkou, enjoyed seeing the expression of so many cultures and traditions.
“This is what makes America such a great country,” he said. “It’s so multicultural.”
The major challenge with International Night, which Kester called a nice mix of American and international students, community members, and faculty, is to keep it student-run and not too rehearsed while still maintaining a friendly environment.
“It’s kinda organized chaos,” he said.
Ulli Schraml, advisor for the International Friendship Club, said $519 was collected from International Night through admissions fees ($2 a person), and an additional $137 was donated to benefit Beach Elementary School.
Looking into the future of International Night, Kester said the only other building on campus that could support a crowd the size of what International Night attracts would be the Pavilion, although he warned that the acoustics would be worse.
Another consideration would be to move the event to a later time in the year, so that it could be held outdoors. That’s a gamble, though, warned Kester.
“International Night plus bad weather equals disaster,” he said.
Although the future location for the event may be in question, one thing is not when it comes to International Night: “It’s just continuing to grow,” said Kester.
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