Flags from around the world are showcased at the City Streets celebration at Amherst College

In Tajikistan, the main language has Persian roots, and tajik means “crown.” That crown, sun-yellow and haloed by stars, adorns the Tajikistan flag—which, on Sunday night, was one of 133 flags embellishing an outer wall of Fayerweather Hall.

Goodbye, somber brick facade. Hello to the spectacle of colors, music, games and great food that is City Streets, the College’s internationally themed spring celebration. It coincides with one of the Admitted Student Open House days, which enlarges and animates the crowd even more.

These flags represent the homes and heritages of most current Amherst students, and this year Tajikistan and Croatia were new to the mix. As festival-goers dined on everything from falafel to samosas to crepes—at food tents devoted to the cuisine of six continents—this writer and photographer wandered about, asking folks about their favorite flags and foods.

Meanwhile, we kept an eye on the long lines at the tents, hoping we’d get some wild mushroom empanadas before they ran out. Not to mention the locally sourced ice cream (from Maple Valley Creamery in Hadley, and the salted caramel went fast).

The night offered a feast for the eyes and ears as well as the palate. There were fire dancers and a very busy balloon creature maker. There was an inflated bouncy slide and a cornhole pitch, where beanbags sailed aloft. Strings of twinkling lights set off the pewter, might-rain-any-minute sky.

And the same-old Valentine Quad walkways? They were named with signs from city streets around the world: Ngong Road, Puerta del Sol, Rue Chabot and more. And while we took in the visuals, we could also hear the bass and bright notes of all kinds of world music, the playlist chosen by Francis Choi ’19.

Lianbi Ji ’21, who is from the Chinese city of Suzhou, is a big fan of City Streets: “It’s just wonderful, and it’s one of the few occasions when all at the College can get together.” When she went to her first City Streets a couple of years ago as an admitted student, she added, “seeing my flag made me feel so welcome.”

Check out the following photos to see and hear from a lot more people having a great time.

Left to right: Niamani Williams-Cole ’20, Jonathan Paul ’22, Dagim Belete ’22 and Thai Nguyen ’21
Left to right: Niamani Williams-Coles ’20, Jonathan Paul ’22, Dagim Belete ’22 and Thai Nguyen ’21 posed and discussed their own favorite flags. For Paul, it’s Trinidad and Tobago, “because it reminds me of home”; for Nguyen, it’s Vietnam; for Belete, who is from Addis Ababa, it’s the green-yellow-red flag of Ethiopia. He explains, smiling: “I love those colors together so much that I’m even happy when I see red, yellow and green apples together!”

Fire spinners Megan Thompson  (left)  and Peter Meyer  (right)
Left: Megan Thompson, stage name “Angelfire,” is a fire spinner who trained with a troupe in Boston. “The Amherst crowd is super amazing,” she said. That crowd collectively gasped in admiration as she hula-hooped a ring of fire and together winced at the potential dangers. When asked if she’s afraid of getting burned, she said, “You tend to get burned more in the kitchen than playing with fire like I do.”

Right: When I asked fire guy Peter Meyer if he had a title, he said, “Human.” And if I were to describe what he does? He said, “Play.” Meyer, who has a background in martial arts, said he doesn’t perform, he plays, and “the hardest thing to do is to just play and know that people are watching us play.”

Students at City Streets festival, Amherst College
Left, top and bottom: Daniel Kim (in black shirt), an admitted student, is a Californian, so he was a bit suspicious of the festival’s New England-made churros (creations of the Valentine Dining Hall staff), “but they really hold up.” Asked which flag on Fayerweather resonated most, he said he was proud of his Korean descent and pointed to the white, black, red and blue flag of South Korea.

Right, top and bottom: Adriana Badena, an admitted student, had never played cornhole before, but she gave those beanbags a toss. A Houston native, Badena also said the churros were surprisingly good. Her favorite flag was the Mexican one, which reflects her own background.

Left to right: Tejia Pavao ’21, Aidan Whitman, Avery Hunter, Danielle Reed ’21. Pavao
Left to right: Tejia Pavao ’21, Marley (last name not known), Stephen Johnson ’19, Kennedy Reed ’19. Pavao was partial to the Lebanese flag, because of Amherst’s exchange student here from the American University of Beirut, while Reed was drawn to the French flag since she hopes to study in Paris soon.

Valentine Hall staff members making crepes
Most of the cuisine was cooked by Val staffers, but the fresh-made crepes were courtesy of The Paris Creperie café in Brookline, Mass. The crepes came in three flavors: strawberry with butter and brown sugar; bear claw with cinnamon and cookie butter from Trader Joe’s; and dulce de leche. Pictured here is cook Nicole Allen. Note the Eiffel Tower logo on her shirt.

Andressa Silva (left) and Joanna Idrovo (right)
“This is the greatest day of my life,” joked admitted student Joanna Idrovo (at right). “I have an alien balloon hat on my head, I’m eating coffee fudge ice cream, and I’m listening to K pop.” Joanna, who was drawn to the Mexican and Ecuadorean flags, was with Andressa Silva (left), an admitted student (who has accepted). Silva loved the Brazilian flag and confided to her questioner, “I have eaten so much food!

Cosmo Brossy ’19, Emery Sorvino ’19, Lauren Eisner ’19, Billy Massey ’21.
Left to right: Cosmo Brossy ’19, Emery Sorvino ’19, Lauren Eisner ’19, Billy Massey ’21. “This is the best event of the year,” said Eisner. Brossy held a container of poutine from the Canada / U.S. food tent. What about flag preferences? Sorvino said Denmark, since she was back from studying abroad in Copenhagen, while Brossy suggested Portugal, which he had visited on spring break after studying Portuguese.

Patrick Rauschelbach ’19 and Patrick Spoor ’22 playing Connect Four
They called it the “Battle of the Patricks.” Senior Patrick Rauschelbach ’19 and first-year student Patrick Spoor ’22 noticed the line had temporarily shortened to play a giant game of Connect Four. So they went four it. Each took turns dropping plate-sized purple or white discs to try and get a quartet all in a row, á la tic-tac- toe. The elder Patrick won, gloated mildly and got wistful that this was his last on-campus City Streets. He was born in Bitburg, so his favorite flag was the German one, while Spoor’s was Ecuador (his mom’s family is from Guayaquil).

Lianbi Ji ’21 (at left) adn Benny Weng
Lianbi Ji ’21 (at left) is a big fan of City Streets: “It’s just wonderful: it’s one of the few occasions when all at the college can get together.” Ji remembered how she felt, back when she went to the festival as an admitted student and spotted the flag of China. “When I first arrived, it made me feel so welcome.” She is shown here with her friend Benny Weng, a Williams College student.

Joseph Herzig (in glasses) of his dogs Pearl (black and white) and Dutch (brown)
“I fed them some of the beef short ribs, and they loved it!” said Joseph Herzig (in glasses) of his dogs Pearl (black and white) and Dutch (brown), who got a lot of love from passersby. Herzig, a landscaper, is the son of Cathie Rubeck, lead garde-manger in Dining Services. What’s your mom’s best dish? I asked Herzig. Said he: “All her dishes are the best dishes.”

Riding on the bouncy slide
A number of eager, shoeless students lined up next to the young children of staff and faculty for a turn, then skidded down the bouncy slide. We didn’t get the name of this partaker. But if you know who this is, slide us the name.

City Streets celebration
Dusk befell this, the seventh annual City Streets celebration—which took place, as I learned from Joshi Gajadhar, a postdoctoral physics research associate at the College, on Nepal’s new year’s day. “Naya Barsha Ko Subhakamana!” he wrote in my notebook; “Happy New Year!” in Nepali. You can see the nation’s distinct double-triangle-shaped flag—the only non-quadrilateral national flag in the world—in the bottom row of the flags illuminating this special night.