Omaha's diversity was on display Saturday with about 35 cultures represented at the Heritage Festival.
The annual festival started off with a parade from 10th and Pacific Streets to Lewis & Clark Landing. Participants wearing traditional clothing walked beside floats representing their cultures.
About 20 people represented the German-American Society in the parade, then performed songs and dances afterward.
“I think it's good for everyone to come see all the different ethnic groups,” said Michael Olk, cultural director of the German-American Society. “I wish more ethnic groups would get involved.”
The goal of the festival is to integrate Omaha's cultural communities, said Giovy Demiranda, organizer and president of the Midlands Latino Community Development Corp.
“It's an awesome way to showcase what a wonderful city we are and how multicultural we are,” Demiranda said.
Besides the performances, the festival offered food, vendors, exhibits and crafts.
Marty Dowds, owner of Dowds Irish Dance Academy, brought a group of about 20 students to perform, including Josie Cooley, 9.
Josie, who has been Irish dancing for about two years, enjoyed the festival, especially the music.
“The singing here is great,” she said. “People can relax and hear the music.”
Mariachi Patria Juvenil provided some of the day's music. The group has been involved in the festival since it started in 2011.
“I like entertaining and showing a bit of our Mexican culture,” group member Alejandra Mayorga said.
Yanira Garcia, an intern for the Latino development group, didn't know what to expect when she got involved with planning the festival, but was impressed with the outcome.
“I think it's awesome,” Garcia said. “This is exactly what we need to promote our diversity.”
Organizers expected more than 3,000 people to attend. They want to grow the festival in the future, bringing in groups from all of Omaha's ethnic communities.
“Our city is diverse,” Demiranda said. “We have a lot to offer and we can do it in unison.”
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CORRECTION: Josie Cooley was misidentified in an earlier version of this story.