Hundreds attend Benson New Arts Festival to celebrate local refugees and immigrants
BENSON — To celebrate the local immigrant and refugee community, Lutheran Family Services organized an event last Friday to showcase their artwork and exotic food dishes.
The New Arts Festival, held in downtown Benson, included artwork, food and entertainment from nearly a dozen vendors, many who migrated to the United States in the last several years.
Lutheran Family Services Outreach Specialist Brittany Steiner said the event was a success and was excited to connect local immigrants and refugees with community members.
“Our vision at Lutheran Family Services is to partner refugees with the art community in order to enrich and empower their life through fulfilling their own cultural art forms in the United States or bridging social capital by meeting and connecting them with other Omaha artists,” Steiner said.
This is the third year of the event, which was mostly organized by Lutheran Family Services and independent volunteers. The previous several years of the festival was run by multiple community organizations and clubs.
The vendors who represented this years New Arts Festival are refugees currently being sponsored by local families or were found by word-of-mouth through refugee leaders. Steiner said the language barrier had been difficult but the local immigrant community was excited to share and sell their homemade goods.
One of the vendors at the event was Omaha restaurant Chaima African Cuisine. The restaurant was built by a family of immigrants from West Africa nearly 15-years ago and features dishes from over five different countries, including Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.
One of the owners of Chaima African Cuisine, Chaima Marazi, said she migrated to the United States nearly 20-years ago and created their family business inside of their family home before moving into a new location about five years ago.
Marazi said her experience of coming to the United States has been an amazing opportunity for her family but she will always miss her home country.
“Home is home, but we love being here, except for the snow,” said Marazi. “Overall it has been a great experience and the best place to call our home away from home.”
The festival also featured several performances from local immigrant performers, along with visual art, fashion, street and guerilla art.
Organizers hope to have the festival in Benson again next year because of this year’s success and are hopeful that it will bring a larger crowd and more vendors.
Nebraska is already home to over 30,000 refugees and nearly 1,200 more move to the states every year, according to KETV Channel 7.