Springville Folkfest brings culture to host families


Each summer, folk dance groups travel from all over the world to share their cultures at the Springville World Folkfest. This year’s Folkfest concluded on Aug. 3, and brought many unique perspectives and experiences to Utah residents.

But Utahans aren’t the only ones who benefit from the festival. Folkfest participants — who travel from places like Lithuania, the Netherlands, South Korea, Chile, South Africa, Taiwan and Martinique — have special cultural experiences of their own as they reside with host families in Utah County during the Folkfest.

Host families are responsible for housing two participants at a time and take on the responsibility of sharing American culture with their guests, along with taking them to all the festival activities.

Toni Zaugg and her husband have hosted participants for three years, and the couple loves interacting with the participants.

“I love to play host, and I love to learn about different countries and cultures,” Zaugg said.

Zaugg served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints to Chile, so she was eager to host a few of the Chilean participants.

“We can figure each other out, so it’s nice that way,” Zaugg said. “We try to keep them busy seeing things and doing things all day.”

Zaugg and her family have taken their guests to places such as Thanksgiving Point, Sundance, BYU and other popular tourist attractions in Utah. Participants are also given the opportunity to share their culture with their host families by sharing stories, preparing traditional cultural meals, dancing and singing with the families.

Jeff and Karla Chamberlain decided to host participants for the first time this year and have enjoyed interacting with their Dutch guests and learning about the Netherlands.

“It’s been great, they are really fun, and they are teaching us a lot,” Karla Chamblerlain said.

The Chamberlains share American culture with the participants by taking them on hikes, to the library and to visit Temple Square.

“They live with us for the week and they eat what we eat and they do all the things that we do, so they have a tour guide the whole time to do all of the American things,” Jeff Chamberlain.

Not only do participants and families get to benefit from each others’ cultural differences, but the World Folkfest is one of the most prestigious festivals of folk fance and music in the United States, and all host families get free admission to the events.

Some World Folkfest dancers, like Hein and Petra VanKoelen from the Netherlands, have been dancing for many years. The VanKoelens have been dancing with their group for 35 years. They first learned about the World Folkfest when they were invited to participate while on a performance tour in China in 2001, and have been coming to the World Folkfest every year since.

“It’s a pretty big event,” Hein Vankoelen said. “But it’s just for fun.”

Another folk group from Martinique, an overseas region of France in the Caribbean Sea, is visiting the World Folkfest for the first time. The team consists of 24 dancers between the ages of 18 and 25, and has been dancing and touring for 14 years.

Dressed in costumes traditional to their culture, the many groups of Folkfest dancers bring multiple colorful and bright costumes to the stage each year, along with cultural dance and live music to enhance the experience for all attending the festival.

“The Folkfest is an event full of life, color and excitement,” said Donna Breckenridge, Folkfest general director, in a press release. “Our dancers come with a great desire to share their culture, and audiences can feel that enthusiasm through their performances.”

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