CultureFest offers a taste of ‘Nebraska Treasures’

Among the honorees at CultureFest were, from left, Thomas Warren, Aileen Warren and Devin Nickol, MD

Among the honorees at CultureFest were, from left, Thomas Warren, Aileen Warren and Devin Nickol, MD

The UNMC campus community got a taste — literally — of what Nebraska has to offer during the annual CultureFest celebration.

The event, held May 25, is designed to recognize culture, inclusion and diversity. This year held a theme of “Nebraska Treasures,” highlighting all things Nebraska.

Festivities kicked off with a recognition of notable Nebraskans who have made significant contributions to the state. Honorees included UNMC’s Linda Cunningham, Kristie Hayes, MD, Kyle Meyer, PhD, Devin Nickol, MD, and Sasha Shillcutt, MD.

Cunningham, a member of UNMC’s human resources team, established CultureFest a decade ago. She said she could not be prouder of how the event has grown and thanked her team members for an impressive 2023 event.

“Over the years, our CultureFest events have brought people from diverse backgrounds together to celebrate and experience local cultures, customs and cuisine,” Cunningham said. “The annual day of fun and excitement has included everything from a Chinese Lion Dance to samples of Salvadorian papusas.

“It has been a joy to introduce people to different ideas and cultures and to provide a safe space for inquiry and appreciation. This year, we wanted to explore the state of Nebraska and highlight some of our hidden and well-known gems.”

Cunningham said she was surprised to be included in the “Nebraska Treasures.” 

“I guess, after 27 years in the state, I’ll need to claim Nebraska after all,” she said. “Truth is, I’ve lived here longer than in my own home state of South Carolina.”

Attendees got to sample freshly made Reuben sandwiches, Valentino’s pizza and Dorothy Lynch dressing, while they perused vendors set up at the Ruth and Bill Scott Student Plaza. Volunteers in one booth dished out butter brickle ice cream from Hiland Dairy. Guests washed down the fare with cups of Kool-Aid.

The event also included performances by singer Dani Cleveland and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Scarlet Dancers.

Some guests took to a shady tent to paint Nebraska scenes. Other booths featured representatives from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, the Tri-Faith Initiative, Florence Mill, iEXCEL, Afro Swag Media & Magazine and Arby’s.

Giovanni Jones, the event organizer, said she was overjoyed with the response to the event.

“The ITEACH values were on full display (innovation, teamwork, excellence, accountability, courage and healing), and it was exciting to see everyone celebrating all things Nebraska and each other,” Jones said. “We explored art, food and entertainment. … I learned a great deal about Nebraska, and I hope others did, too.”

Jones said one of her favorite moments was leadership representing CultureFest in their T-shirts. If anyone wants a CultureFest T-shirt, contact Jones by email.

CultureFest scavenger hunt winners: Priti Gandhi, Melissa Gutierrez, Rita Laughlin, Brian Maass and Bailey Williams.

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