Greek native Irini Kassas initially found it hard to maintain her cultural knowledge when she first moved to Australia at the age of 14.
Eight years later, she will proudly share her culture, country and heritage in front of thousands at another edition of the Maitland Riverlights Multicultural Festival.
“[Riverlights] is about acceptance – it pushes forward and encourages change,” Kassas says.
This year’s event, which takes place in The Levee Central Maitland on Saturday 12 October, features the likes of cultural demonstrations, lantern workshops, a global kitchen, and cultural villages.
The villages are set to include food tastings, traditional games and arts, as well as a spectacular dance and music program, before the lantern flotilla and finale on the Hunter River.
More than 20 villages from around the world, such as Afghanistan, China, Greece, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, South Sudan and Tonga, will be showcased at the event, with
A language lounge, where participants can take a seat and learn to count in a range of languages, from Polish to Sudanese and in between, is also part of the program.
“A lot of my family members get together and really put in a lot of effort in terms of maintaining the cultural village,” Kassas adds.
“So many nationalities are involved in it, like the Scots and Thais, and it’s great to be able to meet new people and learn about their culture.
“People are wanting to be part of something – even if they’re not Greek or from that culture, they are just wanting to be part of something bigger.”
Now in its eighth year, Riverlights’ last event attracted more than 8,000 people to The Levee.
Maitland mayor Loretta Baker hopes the city can share its diversity and celebrate with even more visitors this time around.
“Riverlights has become an amazing event for us and we know that people love the colour, music, dance, tastes and sounds of the festival,” she says.
“It’s a celebration of Maitland’s culturally diverse community.”
The Maitland Riverlights Multicultural Festival will go from 3pm to 9pm.
Visit maitlandriverlights.com.au for more information.