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Festival of Nations celebrates global dances, cuisine and crafts

"The kids are very comfortable performing," Ginter said, noting that some of the dancers started performing with the church group when they were just 5 or 6.

Ginter, like Ajmera, said that being involved in the festival is a good way to stay connected to her heritage, and that the young dancers have embraced that mission, too.

"They know that they're doing something that's inborn in their families," she said. "It's all about maintaining your ethnicity in this hodgepodge of so many."

Those ethnicities are also celebrated in the festival's "Miss Festival of Nations," which Ajmera stressed is not a beauty contest. Instead, contestants are judged on their personality, community service and knowledge of their countries. Judging began Wednesday, Oct. 14, with a pageant at the Marriott Hotel in Albany, and a winner will be selected from five or six finalists at the Festival of Nations.

The festivities begin with a parade of nations. Representatives from each country will wear national costumes, and national anthems will be played. Then, the stage is taken over by dancers.

Ajmera is hoping for a good turnout, noting that many people come back to the festival year after year.

"It's like the Fourth of July," he said. "The fireworks are the same, but people go every year."

The festival's biggest competition, he said, is traditionally football games. But this year, the NFL's schedule may work to the festival's advantage.

"The Giants play at 4 o'clock," he said with a laugh. "So people can still come to the festival and then go home and watch them.""

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