“Viva Europe!” gives Gainesville fun way to learn about continent

By on March 22nd, 2013

Residents of Gainesville will find a new way to learn about Europe this weekend without ever stepping foot in a classroom or traveling across the Atlantic Ocean.

The University of Florida Center for European Studies, the International Center and Santa Fe College will be hosting its second annual “Viva Europe!” festival at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Attendees visit Portugal display table at  the  2012 "Viva Europe!" festival in downtown Gainesville.

Shaneece Dixon / WUFT News

Attendees visit Portugal display table at the 2012 "Viva Europe!" festival in downtown Gainesville.

Adults and children can take a tour of Europe by visiting display tables for different countries, listening to musical performances, and taking part in dance, food and a marketplace filled with items from various European countries.

“We’re providing a lot of different experiences for folks to come away with a first-hand understanding of some aspects of cultures of many different European countries,” said Gail Keeler, outreach coordinator at the Center for European Studies.

The Center for European Studies is a national resource, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, and is part of an initiative to spread awareness about Europe to the public.

It was recently awarded a $68,000 grant from the European Union Delegation to the U.S. as part of an effort to familiarize the public with the significance of the EU-US transatlantic partnership. “Viva Europe!” is one of several initiatives the Center has created to do so.

“We wanted to come up with an idea where we can reach a lot of people at one time and teach people about Europe and the European Union in a fun way that would be very engaging,” said Keeler.

Unlike last year’s event, Keeler said attendees can expect to get more of an interactive experience which includes learning how to write their name in Russian, having their fortune told through coffee grounds at “Greece,” and hearing a performance from a Turkish dance troupe arriving from Montreal, Canada.

A Flamenco dance group performs at the 2012 "Viva Europe!" festival at the Bo Diddley Plaza in downtown Gainesville.

Shaneece Dixon / WUFT News

A Flamenco dance group performs at the 2012 "Viva Europe!" festival at the Bo Diddley Plaza in downtown Gainesville.

Approximately 1,500 people attended the festival last year, according to Keeler. This year’s theme for “Viva Europe!” is “Get Your Hands on Europe. She hopes at least 2,000 will attend this year.

“So many people have a European heritage. It’s part of them,” said Keeler. “I think it’s good to reconnect with that or at least to try to maintain that connection with our heritage.”

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