22 March, 2012

Last week I found myself in the offices of Parks and Recreation of the city of Atlanta. I had an appointment to see a Special events coordinator to walk through the proposed set up for the Georgian Cultural festival. When I finally got to see the coordinator, she was pleasant but slightly confused about why we, in the USA State of Georgia, needed a whole day Festival dedicated to the Southern style of living. When I explained that the Festival

was for the Country of Georgia, the coordinator became visibly relieved and excited at the same time. Turns out she had heard of Georgian ‘cheese bread’ khachapuri, and couldn’t wait to actually taste it. 


This has been a theme on the road to setting up the first annual outdoor Georgian Cultural Festival in Atlanta. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing with friends asking about the festival, when the website will be up, when tickets are for sale, do we need anything. And these are calls from American friends. Everyone who hears about the festival is excited to come and celebrate with us. And they are not only excited to come eat the food, listen to the music and watch the dances; they are equally excited to for the opportunity to party with Georgian people. Turns out Georgians have quite a nice reputation for being hospitable and friendly party people. I don’t know who perpetuated that stereotype, certainly not me - you couldn’t find a pricklier unfriendly Georgian if you tried, but someone has been spreading rumors that majority of Georgians are quite a welcoming bunch. A Serbian friend of mine was so insistent on how great we are, that after three hours of listening to this propaganda, I stated to believe it. And then I was hooked.

The next step was to approach these ‘friendly and happy’ people, by calling a meeting of representatives of the Georgian community. I say community very cautiously, because I do hope this festival brings about at least a sense of community within Georgians if nothing else. Right now ‘community’ consists of Georgians who are interested in seeing this project actualized, and who picked up their phones when called. That is not to say that there were no objections. As soon as I walked in the door it was one problem after another: we need people to make food, we need dancers and singers and so on. And since our budget is small, we are a bit constricted. Ideally we would have hired a catering company, but there are no Georgian restaurants in Atlanta. We would have hired professional dance company, but they don’t live here either. There are plenty of obstacles, and they were all discussed ad nauseam at the meeting. Yet, these obstacles seemed to spur us on, more than anything. Instead of focusing on the problems and complaining about lack of restaurants and dancers, we ended up looking for ways to get around those problems. Maybe the menu could be shortened, maybe we can do what Polish festival does and have people from the community who are not professional, but have knowledge of Georgian dance perform. Or we can get sponsors to help fund the singers and so on. I have to admit; I went into that meeting with trepidation, half expecting to be shoed away, half to be laughed out. I was not expecting such camaraderie from people I had never met before. It was very inspiring to be surrounded by seriously helpful Georgians. I hope the energy they brought to this meeting lasts us all the way to May 26th.

And now, I am off to assure the Atlanta Fire Department that we will not be digging fire pits to roast goats in a public park. Wish me luck.