Yes, we did it!
14 June, 2012

Mancho  Ekliani


One of the visitors to the first annual Georgian Cultural Festival commented after looking around ‘The Mayans have predicted the end of the world in 2012. Coincidentally that was also the year of the first Georgian Cultural Festival’.

For those of you who haven’t heard, and why would you, no one has covered it yet, on May 26th, an anomaly, in a form of a first outdoor annual Georgian Cultural Festival, happened in Atlanta, GA. Hosted by Everything

Georgian, Inc, a non-profit dedicated to promoting Georgian arts and culture, the festival was a non-political, non-religious, non-celebrity oriented Cultural event, first of its kind. Without political force behind it, without the support of the richest Georgians and without any name flashing, this festival was supposed to die away before it got its footing, and yet on May 26th  in John Howell Park, Virginia Highland, there were more Georgians in one place, working together, laughing and enjoying the festival than ever before. They weren’t there to protest anyone, they weren’t there to defend their country or mourn the dead. They were there to celebrate the privilege of being Georgian.
There is no need to explain that in Atlanta, GA there are no Georgian restaurants, or bakeries as there are in NY, there are no professional Georgian folk dancers, or polyphonic singers. It is nearly impossible to find any decent Georgian wine or any Georgian product.  But what they lack in product, Atlanta, Georgians make up for in desire to succeed. No Georgian restaurant? Everything Georgian hired a Turkish catering company who have been doing the Turkish Cultural festival for years. After making the Georgian cuisine, the chef reluctantly admitted he preferred some of the Georgian dishes to his own. No Georgian wine? EG, got on the facebook and found a young Georgian student, who had thrown a Georgian Night in her college in New Mexico and through her found a contact with wine importers in Washington DC. No dancers? EG asked a Georgian dance teacher if she would prepare her young students for a few performances. No folk singers? EG contacted an American singer in NY to help out with transcribing Georgian folk music for the festival and gathered American and Georgian friends to perform the songs at the festival.
It was a wonderful sight.  The musicians were phenomenal, the dancers were adorable, the artists presenting their work were very popular, the food was amazing! Promptly at eleven o’clock, a big group of elderly Russians rushed the refreshments table chanting ‘we want kachapuri’. At the end of the festival, seven hours later, a woman was overheard talking to one of the volunteers at the festival, ‘we have been looking for you (Georgians) for sixteen years, were have you been?!’
As for volunteers, they were a mix of people, both Georgians, and non-Georgians.  And they were all amazingly patient and courteous. There were young Georgian men who took upon themselves to bring and cook ‘mzvadi’, A French American and Korean American were in charge of the wine and soft drink table, and they worked non-stop. Georgian Volunteers braved their way through hoards of people paying for food. The ticket sellers were a bit buffled when someone would first ask them in Georgian then Russian, because they were American and Indian, but in the end everyone understood each other.
The Georgian love of Backgammon, came through in spades during the backgammon tournament, where the first place almost went to a woman (god forbid), but she couldn’t do it to her friend, so she won the second place, a bottle of Teliani Valley Saperavi, and something more priceless, a whole day of pure good fun.
The kids at the festival were having a grand time as well, grape stomping,  painting in the life size mural, taking photos in the Pirosmani’s blown up paintings, and just playing and getting to know one another.
All in all the festival was a success. The Georgian society in Atlanta worked with what they had, with whom they had and they proved that even though it wasn’t much, the gold was in the quality and not quantity.
At the end of the night, during the clean up, a couple rushed up to one of the volunteers. ‘Are you Georgians?’ The lady asked, and upon finding out that indeed there was a Georgian Cultural festival, she almost cried, ‘I’ve been looking for other Georgians for two years, and had I known earlier I would have been here earlier. I had just run into a Turkmeni friend who told me about you!’ It seems everyone is looking for Georgians in Atlanta, but like leprecons we have stayed hidden, refusing to share our pot of gold, aka (our rich culture). Well, not anymore. Next year, when Everything Georgian hosts the second Georgian Cultural Festival everyone will know - there are Georgians in town and they are bringing out the gold!

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