Over 90 cultures intersect at Salt Lake City’s Living Traditions Festival

The festival features international food and vendors at Washington Square and Library Square this weekend.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Viva Mexico Ballet performs during the Living Traditions festival in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Headdresses sparkled and skirts swished throughout Washington Square and Library Square on Saturday, as sweet and savory scents drifted through the streets for the Living Traditions Festival.

Over 90 cultures that have made Salt Lake City their home were represented at the festival, which returned in full this year for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The event serves as a celebration of diverse cultures, and stalls advertised many international delicacies — from Argentine empanadas to Nepalese chicken curry to Tibetan vegetable momos, among others.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Dionysios Greek Dancers perform at the Living Traditions festival in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Maryna Detsyura hosted a vendor booth displaying Ukrainian traditional clothes and dolls. She said she was proud to represent Ukrainian culture, and that she was happy to display her country’s customs at the event.

Her booth’s items included traditional Ukrainian Vyshyvanka clothing, along with small cloth dolls. The dolls don’t have embroidered faces because they’re usually used as guardian dolls, she said, like “little angels” looking out for the owners.

“This is an important moment for us because we want to tell to all the world that the Ukrainian nation existed for more than 1,500 years,” Detsyura said “We are struggling right now with our neighbor, but it means that we fight for our freedom and for the right to keep existing. This fight is still showing how deep our culture and history is, and [we’re] eager to continue and keep our traditions.”

Other vendors also sold various cultural wares, like Navajo, Ute and Hopi beadwork, Ecuadorian woodcarvings and Japanese origami, among others.

While attendees shopped, they were tempted by the smells of roasted chicken, boiling noodles and simmering vegetables from the food corridor nearby. Sara Manandhar, who is a part of the Nepalese Association of Utah, served customers Nepalese cuisine — including dishes like chana masala and chicken momos.

“We are busy and we are out of some food,” Manandhar said Saturday afternoon. “It’s going well, and it’s fun to interact with people and do some volunteer work for our association.”

The Nepalese Association also hosted a live demo, where they showed attendees how to prepare momo.

“I would tell all people to come and visit and see the culture, and try food from different countries’ cultures,” Manandhar said. “It’s a nice thing to have our Living Traditions in Utah, where we can experience different cultures from different countries.”

The festival runs Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. For more information, go to saltlakearts.org/livingtraditionspresents.