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Refugees in Cache Valley celebrate culture and community with food, dancing

Women dancing in traditional Eritrean clothing, white dresses with the Eritrean flag around the bottom and a see-through scarf.
Duck Thurgood
Women from Eritrea dance to Eritrean music at the World Refugee Day Celebration on Saturday, July 17.

People from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds gathered on Saturday, June 17 to celebrate World Refugee Day. The event was hosted at Willow Park in Logan by the nonprofit Cache Refugee and Immigrant Connection (CRIC), which focuses on connecting refugees and immigrants in the area to needed resources.

“CRIC’s vision is community for everyone, very simple, and that is what I'm most excited for is just bringing community together,” said Sariah Wilkey, CRIC’s outreach and development manager.

CRIC was also recently approved as one of three resettlement agency affiliates in Utah. According to Crystal Oborn, the volunteer housing coordinator, this means they work even more closely with those coming to Cache Valley, including picking people up from the airport.

“I lead a team of other volunteers and we’ll help set up all of the housing, buy groceries and purchase or collect items that they need upon arrival,” Oborn said. Those needed items can range from winter clothing to cell phones for contacting a case manager.

On World Refugee Day, CRIC and the people it supports got to celebrate their cultures and newfound communities—and according to Wilkey, who planned this year’s event, that celebration was bigger than ever.

“It used to just be held in our office parking lot and it was just a small celebration,” Wilkey said. “But last year, we really ramped it up.”

This year, the crowd was certainly larger than what you could fit in an office parking lot. People filled the long tables and stood in line for free food, which included things like lamb curry masala and esquites.

 A long line of people in various traditional clothing sitting at a table to watch the dancing.
Duck Thurgood
Attendees sit together to watch the dances.

There were also booths with information about local resources, like the Bear River Health Department, which had vaccines available on-site, and the William A. Burnard Warming Center, which provides shelter during cold nights for unhoused individuals and families.

The main event of the evening, however, was the dancing.

There were dances from each of the most prominent countries Cache Valley welcomes refugees from: Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Afghanistan.

The atmosphere was relaxed and communal, with people dragging their friends up to the stage area and dancers in T-shirts and jeans right alongside those in traditional clothing. By the end of the event, there wasn’t even a notion of which group’s turn it was; everyone simply danced together.

 People in various dress dance together in front of a stage.
Duck Thurgood
People from different cultures all danced together towards the end of the event.

That sense of joyous community and connection was what the celebration was really all about.

“You'll hear us talk a lot about community for everyone, and this right here is exactly what that means,” said Danny Beus, CRIC executive director. “So we just want to say thank you for your support, your donations, for being here today and being willing to open your mind to people from all over the world.”

For more information about CRIC and ways to get involved, visit their website.

Duck is a general reporter and weekend announcer at UPR, and is studying broadcast journalism and disability studies at USU. They grew up in northern Colorado before moving to Logan in 2018, so the Rocky Mountain life is all they know. Free time is generally spent with their dog, Monty, listening to podcasts, reading or wishing they could be outside more.