Memories of International Festival echo through generations
As of this year, Lawton’s international festival will have been around for four decades. A lot can happen in that time — families shift, children have children of their own, new people move into the community and others move out — all the while the festival continues.
Bobbi Whitlson, the current chair of the International Festival Committee, has served the festival in some capacity for 18 years. Whitlson’s friend and fellow committee volunteer, Dinah Lazrate, has been involved with the festival her entire life. Together, the two women have watched the International Festival change and grow for decades.
“I remember when the festival moved to the park and thinking ‘great, I get to decorate this whole park,” Lazrate, who serves as decorating chair for the festival, said. “I’m not even that artsy-fartsy, I’m a nurse.”
Lazrate’s family has been involved with the International Festival since its inception. For five generations her family has participated as performers and volunteers.
“It’s meaningful to me because my parents were a part of the original group that planned and participated in it 40 years ago. They kept at it until they retired. One of their things was to always have us kids be involved in community activities, basically to give back to the community. I participated myself as a dancer for the Filipino American Club,” Lazrate said.
As she became more involved, she began to volunteer to help with decorations, eventually becoming the decorations chair as well as a stage manager. Now, her grandson, who is 11, is beginning to take over for her in some respects as a volunteer himself.