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Multicultural Festival To Transform Lake Anne

Reston's annual celebration of diversity will be held this Saturday at Lake Anne Plaza.

Lake Anne Village Center will be transformed during this Saturday's Multicultural Festival into a colorful representation of the seven continents, celebrating the cultures from around the globe that inform Reston's diversity.

"The idea was to make it look like a mini-Epcot," said Cindy Fortuno, a Reston Community Center employee who designed the massive decorations, including an Eiffel Tower, cardboard icebergs, waterfalls, tiki huts and more. "This is the first festival that we're going to really decorate everything. It's exciting."

Apart from the decorations, the more than 5,000 visitors who are expected to attend the free event will enjoy arts, crafts, entertainment, costumes and food from 25 different cultures.

"We're a melting pot here in Reston," said Haywood Hopson, RCC's special events director who is helping to organize the festival. "We're a truly beautiful and diverse community and this is a celebration of that."

FOUNDED FOUR YEARS ago, the festival has become a signature event in Reston, a community founded on the idea that people of all races, ethnicities and income levels should be welcome.

"We are blessed to live in a sort of mini-United Nations," said Ellen Graves, the festival's founder. "Hopefully this helps unite and unify and makes the community more aware of its diversity."

Graves said the festival is intended to bring neighbors closer together, to see the world through another perspective and to realize that the strength of a community lies in its differences.

"It's an opportunity to feel good about who you are," she said.

Reston resident Sylvia Washington, an elementary school teacher and the festival's chief organizer, said the Multicultural Festival is a good reminder about Reston founder Bob Simon's vision of integration amidst a segregated Virginia.

"Since its beginning, Reston has grown and benefited from diversity," she said. "We wanted to showcase that."

LAST YEAR, the festival was canceled because of Hurricane Isabel. Barring hurricanes, this year's event will begin at 10 a.m. and run until 6 p.m.

It is the product of a combined volunteer effort between the Reston Community Center, Reston Association and several local business and non-profit organizations.

This year's festival will be dedicated in memory of Reston residents Norma Cruz Khan and Leonard Taylor, who were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Khan was an organizer with the Multicultural Festival and was killed the week before the second festival was held.