By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
Killeen's 125th birthday celebration promised to be a festival that would delight the senses; it kept that promise on Saturday.
Outside the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, the smells of barbecue and cultural cooking tents tempted the palates of passers-by.
Inside the Vive Les Arts Theatre, performers representing more than 50 different cultures took to the stage to dance and sing.
From 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., cultural offerings such as the Samoan Culture Dance and the Kunturi Music Band, representing Latin America; storytelling and dancing from the Japanese Women's Club; gospel singing acts; school step teams; and R&B performers entertained, creating an auditory ambiance delighting spectators of all ages.
Phyllis Jones, who is involved in the local NAACP chapter, co-chaired the committee responsible for coordinating the acts, which will continue today as well. She said that because music is such an integral component in most cultures, it made sense to devote a full day's worth of musical acts to help display Killeen's cultural diversity.
"Today was supposed to show how diverse Killeen is. So we've had people from every culture perform," Jones said. "They'll be performing (this weekend). We knew that when Killeen had its 125th celebration, it wouldn't be fair to have it without cultural diversity, because Killeen is culturally diverse. So that's where we came in."
Jones and the committee have been coordinating their efforts since early April to put this weekend's lineup together. They said it wasn't too difficult because they were already active in promoting cultural diversity in the community. Jones said the only instances where any sort of preparation was needed involved the licensed musical groups.
"Actually, it wasn't (difficult) because overall, we lead anyway," she said. "We just said, This is what we need, this is where we need you to be.' So it wasn't difficult. Now with the rap groups, we contacted the record committees."
Julia Villeronga co-chairs the committee with Jones and belongs to the League of United Latin American Citizens.
"Being as diverse as Killeen is, it's very easy to pull all these groups together, because we do a community forum three or four times a year, and this forum is made up of leaders of all these different organizations," Villeronga said. "Therefore, it's very easy to pull them together. So it's really very diverse. We really went all out. Plus, people have been really helpful (by volunteering their time to put it together)."
Jones and Villeronga said they have set up similar shows today; residents who wish to check out the diverse performers of the area can visit the VLA's stage anytime from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7568