Get a taste of European life at downtown event this Saturday

Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.

Leave your passport and luggage at home because this trip to Europe doesn't involve an airport.


If you go

Where: Bo Diddley Community Plaza, 111 E. University Ave.
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Cost: Free and open to the public

The second annual VIVA EUROPE!, a celebration of European culture, comes to the Bo Diddley Community Plaza on Saturday.

"The focus is on hands-on experiential learning about European cultures," said Gail Keeler, the outreach coordinator at the University of Florida Center for European Studies, which is one of the event sponsors. "(It's) not just standing and walking along and looking at pretty things, but actually making something or tasting something."

The event, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., is free and open to the public and features, among other attractions, an open-air marketplace, children's activities and a sing-along on the plaza stage at the top of every hour beginning at noon.

Other sponsors include UF's International Center, Santa Fe College International and several student activity departments, including UF's Italian Student Association and Santa Fe College's French Club. Members of the latter two groups staff the Tour d'Europe, a section of the festival that represents about 15 European Union countries.

Visitors can get henna tattoos in Turkey, sample sweets from Hungary and have their fortunes told in Greece.

Greek fortune tellers use coffee grounds to predict fortunes, Keeler said. They boil the grounds with water, give the coffee to the participant, and then flip the leftover grounds into paper towels. The fortune is then read from the images they see.

Attendees also can learn how to play the saz, a traditional Turkish instrument similar to a banjo and a guitar.

The Turkish dance troupe, the Montreal Türk Kültür Merkezi Halk Oyunlar? Ekibi, will perform traditional Turkish dances.

"(The Center for European Studies) wanted to bring Europe to Gainesville and supply a fun way of learning," Keeler said.

Activities for children include getting their photos taken in front of well-known monuments, like the Eiffel Tower, or creating their own European masterpieces inspired by famous artists, like Vincent Van Gogh.

From 3 to 4 p.m., a mini Irish band will teach children a traditional Irish dance.

In the marketplace, people can purchase handmade items, like Polish pillows and Turkish hand-knitted slippers, or opt for jewelry and Center for European Studies cookbooks.

Vendors will sell French crepes, falafel and clay-oven-prepared pizza.

Keeler said she hopes people leave with a personal understanding of Europe.

"I hope people walk away saying, ‘Wow, I never knew that I could learn Go Gators in Greek, or that they dance like that in Turkey,' " she said.

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