The hangar deck of the USS Midway Museum came alive with the vibrant sights and sounds of more than a dozen different cultures during the inaugural Midway Birthday and Multicultural Celebration.

Performing artists representing African American and Hispanic heritages, as well as multiple Asian, European and Middle Eastern cultures, entertained and engaged museum visitors with high-energy dances and music that highlighted their unique traditions and ethnicities.

Held on Midway’s 77th birthday, the aim of the festival, coordinated by museum’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, was to help build greater ethnic community awareness and appreciation in San Diego.

The littlest drummer performs with the Heartbeat Music & Performing Arts Academy.

“The multicultural event to celebrate the USS Midway’s birthday was a great way to showcase diversity in San Diego,” said, Veronica Armstrong-Evans, chair of the committee. “It was an opportunity to honor the contributions of our diverse population to our city while increasing awareness of all the Midway Museum offers.”

The San Diego community is made up of a variety of heritages from all over the world. Bringing them together on Midway created an inclusive atmosphere of acceptance and admiration.

“We absolutely loved dancing on such an amazing piece of history and being able to share our Mexican culture and traditions,” said Federico Guerrero, director and founder of Grupo Folklorico Herencia Mexicana. “We loved to see the costumes, traditions and history of those around us. Everyone was so kind and friendly, and the crowd really enjoyed the performances.”

For many of the performers, just being on a Navy ship was a unique experience.

“It was awe-inspiring to be on board this historic vessel,” said Jessica Woods, a member of the Japanese Naruwan Taiko Drummers. “For some of our performers, it was their first time being inside this floating museum, and what an experience it was.”

Samahan Filipino American Performing Arts Dancers

Although most museum visitors did not anticipate the event, Midway guests thoroughly enjoyed the celebration.

“This was really fun,” said Libby Pasternick, who was visiting Midway with her family. “I didn’t expect to see this on the ship. It was a great idea. We loved the drumline group, especially the little boy with the mini-bass drum. He was super cute.”

For all of the groups, the chance to perform for the public was an opportunity to keep important parts of their cultures alive and relevant.

“Because San Diego is home to such a diverse population, it’s beautiful to share our traditions and culture with others and at the same time learn about theirs,” said  Federico, who established his Mexican folkdance group in 2018. “The community was able to learn about new cultures and traditions and for some, be proud representatives of their culture.”

“Our group actually performs dances from around the world, so we embrace the opportunity to showcase many countries,” said Mervi Gotch of the Performing Folk Dancers of Balboa Park. “Our group focuses on traditional and authentic dances. We strive to preserve old traditions.”

For one of the groups, performing on Midway was more than just an opportunity to share traditions. It was also a chance to speak to what is taking place in their home country of Ukraine.

“We really appreciate that we are able to be part of this festival on the Midway,” said Paul Filenko, of the Ukrainian band U3zub. “For us, it was also an opportunity to thank the United States for its support of Ukraine and for its efforts to try to keep peace and freedom throughout the world.”

Midway’s multicultural celebration was a huge success and highlighted the strength America enjoys in its diversity.

Vietnamese Southern Sea Dragon Dancers

“It brought various communities together to celebrate and experience the beauty of ethnic and cultural diversity in one of the greatest venues in San Diego,” said Veronica, who is also a retired Navy captain. “It was a wonderful day of making people aware of who is all here and how we make San Diego America’s finest city.”

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