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A festival of faces: Communiversity weaves together cultures with family fun

Flags waving, skirts of elementary school folk dancers swishing and children with tigers painted on their faces laughing created a collage of music and color that shone brighter and sounded louder than the soft thud of rain drops falling from a grey sky.

"If Gene Kelly can sing and dance in the rain, we can do it here on Nassau," said Princeton Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand during her welcoming speech at Communiver-sity on Saturday, before leading the crowd in a verse of the high-spirited tune.


Despite the rain, which forced the Arts Council's Art Park — a series of arts and crafts stations for children — inside the council's building on Witherspoon Street and deterred certain groups from performing, hundreds of people came out to celebrate town-gown unity.

"[The rain] hasn't seemed to dampen the spirits of the crowd," Arts Council of Princeton Executive Director Anne Reeves said. "I can't believe how many people turned out."

Mike Trotter, a boy scout from Lawrenceville who was trying to raise money to help send his troupe to scout camp, shared the excitement. "This is great. We're losing our voices, but this is great," he said.

"My shirt and pants are kind of damp," said Matt Stott, another boy scout, from Montgomery.

"But not our spirits," added Trotter.

Rachel Gittleman, a second grader from Johnson Park School, started the afternoon off with an enthusiastic bang when the conductor of the Princeton University Band placed his hat on her head and let her conduct the group in a song.


"I like to walk in the streets without getting run over by a car," Gittleman said with a huge grin on her face after returning to her parents. "And I like to hear the Princeton band."

Haive the Clown, who was attending Communiversity for the first time from Philadelphia, said he enjoyed bringing smiles to the children's faces.

"My name's Haive the Clown because my mom always told me I had to be," Haive said. "I'm enjoying myself immensely. The reason I'm out here is for the kids going by."

Rip Pellaton — the self-proclaimed town crier, who also teaches at the Princeton Friends School — strode buoyantly through the crowd, encouraging people to disregard the rain.

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"Maybe your smiles will make the sun return," he cried in a deep, jovial voice as he walked past the student booths and out FitzRandolph Gate.

"I worked my way through the colonies, but my heart will always be with Prince," said Pellaton, referring to the town he now calls home. "I'm the town crier and have been such for many of these Communiversities . . . even before it was known as Communiversity. Twenty-three years ago it was merely on Witherspoon."

Since its inception, the fair has expanded in various dimensions to incorporate Nassau Street and other locations on upper campus. Its most notable addition this year was the International Festival, which sponsored events celebrating many of the cultures represented at the University.

Preceded by Indian folk dancing, a Native American jingle dance and a Chinese dragon dance, the triumphant bellowing of bagpipes heralded an international flag procession. During the event, students introduced themselves, one by one, on the Nassau St. stage, and then continued down Nassau, waving their country's colors.

"The best thing [the International Festival] did was merge with the community this year," said Hashim Dabbagh '01, former president of International Students at Princeton. "It was a very nice gesture."

USG president PJ Kim '01 said he viewed this year's Communiversity as a time to evaluate the University's relationship with Princeton.

"I think it's a good opportunity to look back over the relationship that we have with the town, especially in light of the fact that it's the 30th anniversary of the year we opened up FitzRandolph Gate," Kim said.

"But more importantly, it's important to have these events as a way to build ties for the future."