The third-annual Central Bench Spring Festival on June 2 sprung up at Cassia Park. Booths from all sorts of nonprofit organizations attracted festival-goers and food trucks lined the parking lot.
But beyond the booths for pet health and neighborhood associations and unique causes was a surprising amount of international color.
“There’s a lot of refugee relocation in this area, a lot of immigrants. It’s affordable housing so we get a diverse ethnic community,” Sarah Cunningham, president of the Central Bench Neighborhood Association said. “If you’re really doing your job as a neighborhood association, you’re representing the people who live there.”
Cunningham said at least 30 different nationalities live in the bench area, and the Central Bench Spring Festival was a chance to celebrate all of them through performances, workshops and demonstrations.
Victoria Chow sat at a table under a sign advertising tea leaf readings. She teaches tea classes, including tea meditation.
“When you are able to slow down the chatter mind, you are able to reduce stress,” Chow said. “You are able to separate your thought from your emotion so you aren’t run by your emotions all the time.”
Chow, who was born in Hong Kong, has been in Boise for 15 years. She recently learned the art of tea leaf reading. She said people come and ask her all sorts of questions, from what their future holds to potential love interests.
“It feels like spirit comes through me and provides the right answer for people,” Chow said.
Today, reading tea leaves doesn’t require an actual cup of tea.
“Of course, we can still have tea,” Chow said. Instead, it takes the 600 symbols that could be read in tea leaves in the past, and condenses them down into 120 cards that Chow draws from.
Candra Das walked around the park in flowing green robes, beating an African drum. He encouraged people to join his performance on the other side of the park.
“We will be singing traditional songs that are in the vein of yoga,” he said. “Chanting in a certain way helps people free their mind, because everyone has so many anxieties.”
Das, who is originally from Chicago, has been performing all over the world. He calls Boise another stop for his practices.
“People are always looking for something peaceful, and this is one of the things we can do to become peaceful,” he said. “It’s very sublime.”
Das was one of the many performers to share their culture alongside a Bosnian dance troupe and Mexican ballet.
“We’re celebrating positive things and improvements,” Cunningham said. “Rather than a lot of neighborhood associations that focus on issues and what problems are, and that’s when they get active.”
Cunningham hopes that in the coming years, the festival will fill the whole park and continue bringing the community together.