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One of the most anticipated cultural events of the year, FON, held on Febuary 28 and March 1, was filled with a celebratory ambience and large crowd. With over half of the school participating in this event, Townsend Harris continued its annual tradition of holding a cultural dance festival. Despite the tradition, this year’s FON saw numerous changes.
This time FON was held at the Townsend Harris auditorium, unlike last year’s performance, which took place at Queens College’s Colden auditorium. Assistant Principal Ellen Fee noted, “FON has always been at Townsend Harris, and the history was to have it in two nights, and we tried doing it at Colden [last year] for more people to attend but actually, by having it two nights [this year], it gave the largest audience.” In fact, she said that “this year we were able to sell 1000 tickets, but last year we only sold 609.”
Principal Anthony Barbetta added, “Many students wanted to perform two nights, and having the performance at Townsend gave the best opportunity to achieve that. Also, it saves money.”
However, junior Maritza Mero noted, “I would rather have FON in Colden because I know many more people wanted to attend FON but couldn’t due to a lack of seats. If there were more space, it would have been better.”
With previous FON coordinator Lisa Mars no longer a faculty member at Townsend Harris, Spanish teacher Beatriz Ezquerra has taken over the position.
In response to this change, junior Rahul Chandra said, “I was only able to join two FONs this year because apparently Ms. Ezquerra set a limit. However, I don’t think there was a limit in the past. I was able to join three FONs last year.”
Among the various changes that came with this year’s FON was the addition of new cultural groups, including Polish, Kor-indian, and American.
Daniel Wuest experienced initial difficulty in establishing American FON. He said, “When we first looked into doing this, we asked people to sign a list if they were interested. About 50-60 people signed that list, but when it came time to actually start practice, only 15 people showed up. It was hard to remain optimistic about our performance when we had one-sixth of the performers of other large, elaborate FONs.”
Filipino FON leader and junior Emma Noblesala commented on the addition of new FON groups, saying, “I thought that the new cultural groups were a great addition to Festival of Nations. There are a lot of unrepresented nations in our school, Polish FON being one of the largest, so it was nice to see their cultures in the show this year.”
Senior Harry Quinn, emcee of the event, added, “I didn’t know what to expect for FON, because I had never actually gone to one in the past. I regret that now, as being able to introduce the dancers and the cultures they are representing was a transcendental experience.”
“Hosting had the perk of being behind the scenes with the performers,” he continued.
In the past, students have generally participated in FON because it allowed them to embrace their culture and provide time for fun in school.
Emma says, “I participated because when I joined freshman year, I felt so welcomed into the school and I liked being a part of something and meeting new people, and I liked knowing kids my age of the same culture as me. I continue to join FON to make other kids, especially the freshman, feel the same way I did my freshman year.”
Sophomore Kellie Zestinakis said, “FON this year was just really great overall. Everyone did a great job and this tradition at Townsend is definitely one of the best things about it.”
Additional reporting by Sarah Iqbal