Hopatropa, a children’s folk dance group from Bulgaria, perform during a “Welcome to Juanita” event in Kirkland. Photo courtesy of Doug Rough

‘Welcome to Kirkland’ event set for Sept. 16

The Juanita Neighborhood Association wants to bring people of various cultural and linguistic backgrounds together in a “Welcome to Kirkland” event set for Sept. 16.

The free event, hosted by the association, will take place from 1-4 p.m. at Heritage Hall, located at 203 Market St. in Kirkland.

It will feature food, music and dance.

“We are using the word ‘welcome’ pretty universally,” Chair of the Juanita Neighborhood Association Doug Rough said. “We’re welcoming anyone who wants to come into Kirkland.”

It’s a “big party to welcome anybody to make them feel welcome whether or not they’ve been here 40 years or just walking through the door,” Rough said.

The event coincides with National Welcoming Week, which runs Sept. 15-24. The national event was created by the organization Welcoming America.

During the Sept. 5 Kirkland City Council meeting, Mayor Amy Walen proclaimed Sept. 15-24 as Eastside Welcoming Week for the second time. Walen joined the mayors of Bellevue, Issaquah, Redmond and Sammamish in making the proclamation.

“I’m proud that we are once again joining our neighboring cities in this meaningful proclamation,” said Walen in a city press release. “This reaffirms our council goal of creating a diverse and inclusive community that respects and welcomes everyone.”

Earlier this year, council took further action when it approved an ordinance that generally prohibits inquiring into someone’s immigration status and collecting information about religious affiliation, according to the release.

“There’s been a tendency certainly on the national stage to put forward the notion that the enemy is the immigrants,” Rough said. “We think that that’s not true. To some extent everyone in the United States is an immigrant, including the Native Americans.”

Rough said the idea developed from a “Welcome to Juanita” event, that similarly welcomed people to the Juanita neighborhood.

The “Welcome to Juanita” event ran two years in a row, he said.

And as the neighborhood association started thinking about having it again they wanted to branch out.

“We started to think that we should make this bigger than Juanita,” Rough said.

The association reached out the Eastside Refugee and Immigrant Coalition, or ERIC, which told them of the National Welcoming Week. The national event brings communities together welcoming immigrants, refugees and native-born residents.

The association also partnered with KirklandSafe and receives funding from the City of Kirkland to host the event.

“As a welcoming community, we want to bring resources to those who need them,” a “Welcome to Kirkland” event flier reads. “We want to celebrate the economic and cultural contributions of immigrants in the area through their music, dance and delicious food.”

The association will have food from Gyro World, a Greek cafe, Jersey Mikes Subs and Papa John’s Pizza, all located within the Juanita neighborhood. Food is free.

“I think there’s going to be more food than we can eat,” Rough said.

He encouraged people to bring a bag to take home extra food at the end of the event.

Entertainment includes dancers from Tahiti, China and Greece, as well as Hopatropa, a children’s folk dance group from Bulgaria, and the International Youth Music Project.

The association also invited the Kirkland Police Department.

“We want them to know that the police in Kirkland are their friends,” he said.

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