HARVARD — Irina Tuuli, cochairman of the 54th Annual Apple Blossom Festival, hopes folks will come to this year’s event wearing the ethnic garb of their native countries, traditions in tow. She envisions the event to be patterned with the vibrant colors and cultures of many nations including Native American, Korean, Polish, Chinese, Greek, Italian, French, Japanese and Russian.
She paints a splendid picture. A celebration of a multi-ethnic nation where old country roots, replanted in new-world soil, grow and thrive.
As Tuuli, who emigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union 16 years ago, describes the festival traditions her vision draws from, one can almost smell the aromas and feel the pulsing, re-awakened traditions that she wants to enjoin and celebrate.
Her vision for the Apple Blossom Festival’s new theme comes from the folk festival traditions of Russia and other nations that are echoed in the d cor of her home, which is a veritable garden of art, artifacts, icons and collectibles from around the world.
During a recent interview, Tuuli, an artist, pianist and philosophy professor, festooned the dining room chandelier with bright red Chinese New Year decorations. An impromptu collection she set out on the table included a ceramic fish from China, a wooden idol from India and Russian nesting dolls. On an adjacent bookshelf, among other intriguing items, a Baltic landscape of trees and hills sparkled with pieces of amber.
This show-and-tell sampler pressed her point. Cultures coming together are not a single-hued blend, but a gorgeous, multi-colored collage. Each piece is unique like a rainbow or the culture of this country.
Often referred to as a cultural “melting pot,” Tuuli sees the multi-grain makeup of the United States as a salad. The ingredients retain unique flavors and enhance the whole. The dressing is American culture, which ties it together with its own ingredient: innovation.
American culture should sustain ethnic elements, Tuuli said. In her vision, immigrants and locals can savor and share traditions, which is what the festival idea is all about.
It is also about a dream and a promise. Tuuli, who has traveled through Europe and Mexico, said she pitched the idea to event organizers, but credits the spark to her teenage daughter, Teresa Shirkova.
”This was a dream of hers,” said Tuuli.
Shirkova, a senior at Boston College Academy, was invited last year to the Global Young Leaders conference in New York and Washington, D.C., where students participated in model United Nations conferences. While fund-raising for the trip, Shirkova, who speaks Chinese in addition to her native language and English, promised local business people who donated that she would promote a multi-cultural event.
”This is payback to them,” she said.
It’s not a new idea, per se. Multi-cultural fairs are held at area schools, Tuuli said, and museums have ethnic exhibits. In its expanded mission, the Apple Blossom Festival could do all that and then some, offering a wide-open opportunity for people from all over the area to spotlight the countries and cultures they come from.
The festival will take place on May 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., on the Harvard common. The rain date is Sunday, May 14. Wear your heritage, bring it along, Tuuli said. If you play an instrument, bring that, too. Be prepared to share the songs and stories of your homeland.
Tuuli will coordinate the effort. For information call (978) 798-0483. To reach Apple Blossom Festival Chairman Martin Poutry, call (978) 772-2766.