County provides the art, and art provides the magic

Thousands attend Magical Montgomery celebration

Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2005

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Laurie DeWitt⁄The Gazette
Ceili dancers from Silver Spring’s Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance perform for the crowd gathered on Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring during Saturday’s Magical Montgomery celebration of the arts and humanities.

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Laurie DeWitt⁄The Gazette
Rockville resident Billy Pijarowski, 7, tries his hand at percussion instruments during the annual Magical Montgomery celebration held Saturday in downtown Silver Spring.

Exotic rhythms, evocative of faraway lands, emanated from the row of tents lining Ellsworth Drive. A child smiled as a rainbow was painted on her cheek. Onlookers gathered around an art display, peering inquisitively at the intricate craftsmanship of hand-carved African masks.

At Magical Montgomery, an annual festival of the arts and humanities, downtown Silver Spring was transformed Saturday into a bazaar bustling with area families and residents exploring a diverse array of cultural, artistic and community offerings. Organizers estimated that about 7,000 attended.

‘‘It’s hard to believe that this is Silver Spring,” said Anna Gilcher of Takoma Park, who came with her children Beatrice and Julian.

Two main stages hosted music, theater and dance, and community organizations and local artists occupied 120 booths lining the streets around the intersection of Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street.

At one of the booths, the soothing rhythms of Iranian contemporary musician Fariborz Lachini played over a stereo and mingled with the laughter of children. Zohreh Movahed, the festival coordinator for the Iran Cultural and Educational Center of Potomac, displayed cultural treasures, including carved wooden sticks used in a traditional Iranian sport.

A silken, fiery-red, dance costume that sparkled with an adorning pattern of sequins caught the attention of many visitors. The booth also displayed a collection of fine art, from intricate paintings to hand-carved metal works.

The event provided an opportunity for people to interact with and learn from each other, and to share history, culture and knowledge, Movahed said. ‘‘We should be proud of Montgomery County’s initiative to get people to interact. This event recognizes the fact that people have many things to share.”

On one of the stages, students of the Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance of Silver Spring dazzled audience members with a performance set to the whimsical tunes of traditional Irish melodies. Dressed in traditional black velvet dresses, embroidered with an elaborate insignia, the students, ages 9 to 15, showed off their lightning-fast footwork.

‘‘Art is a common bond within the community. It brings everyone out,” said Lisa Stacy of Silver Spring. ‘‘You know, today I’ve run into friends here that I haven’t seen in three or four years. As a community, we have all come out for this event.”

Stacy’s daughter Lisa, 12, said she loved watching all the demonstrations, particularly the martial arts dance by students of the Jow Hop Kuen Gung Fu Academy.

‘‘There’s so much out there to do. I was blown away,” she said.

Theresa Cameron, executive director of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, said Magical Montgomery allows people to get involved in local organizations, brings notoriety to the downtown area, and stimulates and revitalizes local businesses.

Richard Turner, executive director of Montgomery Community Television, a community-based organization, was delighted with the idea of making an appearance at the festival. ‘‘We rely on word of mouth, so this is a very important opportunity for us,” Turner said. People need to know what opportunities and services we offer, such as submitting program ideas, using MCT to announce community events, and providing people with workshops and seminars for studio-related skills like lighting and sound, he said.

Silver Spring resident Amelia Missieledies was with her son Mularo at the Coral Cantigas, a booth where children are invited to make homemade musical instruments. ‘‘We need to do more of this for the kids,” she said. ‘‘It’s good because it brings people together. The interaction with others in the community is important.”