Every year, folk dancers and musicians from around the world come to this out-of-the-way town to strut their stuff, and to make lasting friendships.
If you’re one of 300 performers heading to Springville to perform in World Folkfest, the city’s annual weeklong dance festival that features dancers and musicians from all over the world, don’t worry about trying to find a place to stay—it will find you.
For 30 years, the residents of this thriving arts-focused community of 31,000—nestled in the foothills of the Wasatch Range of the Rockies, just 45 miles south of Salt Lake City—have opened their homes and hearts to these performers, determined to provide the authentic experience of living in a typical American home.
“The love that I felt there is still unforgettable!” says Anastasia Kochiashvili, a member of the Shiraqi dance group from the Republic of Georgia. She performed in the folkfest four years ago and says she will never forget her experience in Springville.
Barbara Sjerps from the Ralda Dance Group in the Netherlands agrees. “Everybody was so loving and open,” she says. “I made friends for life from all over the world, and I am still in contact with my American family, because that is what they are—family.”
Some people have asked, “How can you bring strangers into your home?” The answer: They start out as strangers but end up friends—with blessings for both sides.
The Internet has made it easy for the families to stay in touch. Patrice Bolen claims she has stayed in touch for more than 20 years with some of the performers she’s hosted.
“Our families have learned that the world is not as big and scary as many believe. We have hosted families from almost every continent,” she says. “When my children were small, they would sleep on the couch or the floor and give the dancers their bedroom.”
Now, those nights sleeping on the couch are paying off: Bolen’s daughters have been welcomed into homes as far away as Belgium and Poland.
For over 30 years, the community has opened it’s arms and homes to people from around the world.
Known as “Art City” in Utah, for over 30 years, Springville has hosted the World Folkfest, bringing dancers and musicians from around the world to perform in a week-long dance festival. They are required to have live musicians, original style costumes, and perform folk dances that originate from their country. There is an average of 300 performers that are invited to come.
While many festivals house their guests in dormitories or hotels, Springville has families that volunteer to take the performers into their homes. They give them a typical American home. When my children were small, they would sleep on the couch or the floor and give the dancers their bedrooms.
While the dancers are performing each night, during the day the families will take their guests to do many local activities. Some of the guests have never seen mountains and snow! The families are not compensated, but have the opportunity to see their performers each night for free. Surrounding communities have also asked to be a part of this, but most are taken into homes in Springville.
Language barriers seem to disappear after the first few days. While many people ask, “how can you bring strangers into your home?,” those of us that have hosted for many years try to explain the incredible joy and love that we receive from our guests. With the internet, we have stayed in touch with our dancers that we had over 20 years ago. Our families have learned that the world is not as big and scary as many believe. We have hosted performers from almost every continent. My daughters had the chance to go visit our guests in Belgium and Poland.
By the end of the week when it is time to put them on the buses to the airport, there are so many tears and hugs from both the families and the performers.”