Ruby and Blanche nibbled on some grass at the 1995 Greater Bangor Cultural Heritage Festival. Albino ferrets, the pair turned heads even at an event that specialized in diversity.
Accompanied by their owner, Heather Lindquist, the pink-eyed, leashed ferrets appeared content to nibble on the grass bordering Pickering Square in downtown Bangor while hundreds of their human counterparts sampled more exotic fare at an event that featured music, socializing and 16 booths of food from around the world.
Vegetable curry from India, Spanish “pastillios” — pastry filled with meat — German bratwurst and Greek shish kebabs tantalized the senses and opened the pocketbooks of near-salivating customers who crowded into Pickering Square around noontime Saturday.
“Try this. You’ll like it,” urged Raj Sharma, one of the owners of the Taste of India restaurant in Bangor. Sharma co-owns a second restaurant in Brunswick.
His friend and helper, Avtar Singh, dipped up a tantalizing plate of mixed vegetable curry, rice, vegetable fritters and, to drink, a sweet yogurt concoction that is very popular in India. The food was tasty and greaseless; the drink was similar to a milkshake, only lighter on the stomach. Spicy sauces stood near the entrees, ready to heat up the curry to five-alarm-fire temperature for more daring palates.
“Give me a drink of something. Too much Tabasco,” wheezed one woman to her husband after visiting a booth featuring tacos and other Mexican food.
Blessed with blue skies and late-spring sunshine, the third annual Greater Bangor Cultural Heritage Festival drew throngs of people to downtown Bangor. There they found Scottish and Irish songs, folk dances from the Philippine Islands, and lots of exotic food. Many festival-goers noshed on German, Pakistani, Spanish, Greek and Indian food as they watched the colorful festival, complete with native costumes, unfold.
Defying unpredictable spring weather, the festival has enjoyed sunny days since its inception, according to Mike Dolley, who coordinates the event for the Bangor Center Management Corp.
Between 18 and 20 nationalities were represented at the festival.
Girls in Greek “stoles” — colorful dresses worn on festive occasions — strolled around the square. Stoles were used in Greece as far back as 200 years ago, according to Olga Wells, a member of the St. George Greek Orthodox Church. Wells wore a stole that she said was 150 years old. She also wore jewelry that once belonged to her grandmother in Greece.
The key attraction at the event — the food — continued to draw the crowds hours after the festival opened.
“I’m a vegetarian,” a tall woman told a Pakistani man serving food in one booth.
“This is very good. Gives you lots of energy,” said the man, pointing the woman toward a special Pakistani rice dish that combined pickles, cinnamon and various sweeteners. Nearby stood other delights from “dals” — Pakistani lentils — to chicken “tikki,” which includes chicken meat in a special marinade.
A pink candylike desert — “chum chum” — tasted like a macaroon spiced with watermelon. It provided a tasteful, refreshing conclusion to the Pakistani entrees.
After lunch, the crowd focused attention on the entertainment. Celtic Forest provided Irish and Scottish music on bagpipes and drums, including a soulful rendition of “Amazing Grace” that quieted the crowd.
The Twin City Cloggers stomped out traditional Appalachian folk dances, and children whooped with joy when a brightly colored Chinese dragon pranced onstage.
The dragon actually was a costume that contained four people who marched through the audience.
According to Chinese lore, the dragon is “awakened” each year on Nov. 1 by firecrackers and drums. Its mission is to chase away the spirits and goblins that appeared on Halloween the night before. A huge ceramic head, valued at thousands of dollars, tops the dragon costume, drawing several children who reached up to pat the make-believe beast.
The Greater Bangor Cultural Heritage Festival is “a great way to celebrate the rich cultural diversity” found in Bangor, Dolley said.