Surrey’s Fusion Festival shows why it’s a winner

In 2013, the Surrey Fusion Festival won the International Gala Award for the best festival.

Event presenter John Donnelly knew the two-day event at Holland Park in the renewed Surrey Centre was something special.

“But in a category with 60 submissions from 30 countries where they choose a top three, we were there alongside the Democratic National Convention celebration party for Barack Obama and the opening night of the Toronto Jazz Festival,” Donnelly says.

“And we won.” What made the event resonate so well with the judges and with the 75,000-plus who passed through this weekend is that the Surrey Fusion Festival has both a clear sense of purpose and brilliant execution.

Firstly, it is a family affair that really represents the surrounding large community.

The impressive variety of cultural groups and organizations, as well as regional businesses like the B.C. Chicken Growers and other agricultural enterprises exhibiting in the cultural pavilion, means the city in its entirety is represented.

I don’t doubt there is a good chance many attending are also pulling shifts in one of those booths where they happen to also be employed.

So it is sort of a big/little affair; a day out in the park where you can dance to upbeat MC jams at the Salvadorean booth, get your hands decorated in some truly lush mehndi and – duh – eat your freaking face off.

Seriously, the 40 different international kitchens that dished out reasonably priced and well prepared fare makes share-style

feasting a must.

Sip on a Colombian pineapple – literally the whole emptied out shell with the core refilled with liquefied pineapple – while savouring some Georgian salmon in walnut sauce or Ghanaian honey jerk chicken stew with jollof rice and some slow burn sauce all washed down with some chai ice cream.

Or would you prefer some Argentinian grilled meat sandwich with a kick-up of (superb) Togolese hot sauce and a Guatemalan fried crepe with cinnamon and sugar cane syrup?

Messy and, in all ways, delicious. Basically, you need two stomachs. Or you just come two days in a row. I highly recommend sharing everything to improve the geographic scope of your culinary tour.

You could cozy down to some dirty one-man-band blues courtesy of Aussie Ash Grunwald, or maybe the hypnotically precise percussion of the Korean Traditional Arts Society Drummers.

There was even an all-day powwow stage

which is probably the best representation First Nations culture gets at any regional community festival.

All of it was well curated to give the best possible exposure to artists who mostly hail from the municipality, plus the nightly Concord World Music Stage ringers.

This year, that meant Saturday night featured the one-two-three punch of busy festival circuit groups singer-songwriter Aidan Knight, the Boom Booms and Hey Ocean!

Canadian folk/rock legend Bruce Cockburn closed out the evening.

Sunday night, people got their Afro-Latin vibe on with Juno Award-winning guitarist Alpha Yaya Diallo, the dance-happy Orquesta Tropicana and flamenco-fusionist Pavlo.

This entire event happened free of charge. No surprise that thousands of people flocked to the easy-to-access site from well beyond Surrey.