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September 18, 2012
By John Trent
Eric Rios can think of no better spot to celebrate Night of All Nations' 30th anniversary than where the annual multicultural campus celebration will be held on Sept. 28.
Under the stars.
At Mackay Stadium.
As far as Rios, the president of the campus' International Club can recollect, this will be the first time "Night" will be held outdoors. This year's event is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 28, from 6-9 p.m., at Mackay Stadium.
"We had about 2,000 people attend last year's event at Lawlor Events Center," said Rios, a senior Spanish and Basque Studies major from Las Vegas who is one of the event's organizers. "It was actually pretty crowded. So we'll have more room this year at Mackay Stadium. We've worked with the people at Legacy Hall, and they've been great.
"We're really excited to have it at Mackay."
The success of Night of all Nations has been one of the University's longstanding points of pride.
Originally conceived as a combination of smaller International Club events such as the International Food Fair and Costumes Around the World Show, Night of All Nations has morphed into much more as the campus and its international community gathers to appreciate diversity, foster understanding between nations and people, and experience international cuisine and customs.
This year's theme is "Light Up The World," which, given Mackay's lights and lanterns that Rios said will be placed throughout the stadium, as well as the enthusiasm of the participants, should be easily accomplished.
Rios said between 1,500 and 2,500 participants are expected.
"We're thinking quality over quantity," Rios said, noting that the event will still stay true to its roots with live cultural performances, cuisine from more than 30 nations, and a multitude of tables featuring international crafts. "We'll be trying to keep it more student-focused, since this will be our first year in Mackay."
Rios said he's yet to find someone who, upon attending Night of All Nations, hasn't come away with a better appreciation of foreign cultures. A nice feel-good byproduct of the event has always been the food, he added.
"Everybody loves the food," he said. "Who doesn't love a really good, authentically cooked and prepared, meal from another country?"
Rios said participation from the international community at large in northern Nevada has always been substantial.
"We have members of our community who have supported Night of All Nations for many years," he said. He added that as a freshman, he had no idea how great of an impact the event had on the campus and on the community. "It really did surprise me," he said of the event's reach over the past 30 years. "It's been an amazing success. We have photo albums of some of the old Night of All Nations, and it's crazy to look back and see the different hairdos and costumes then. To see it still thriving, 30 years later, is a really great compliment to our campus and our community."
Rios said that beyond Night of All Nation's pageantry, food and entertainment value, the event's durability and longevity point to the fact that the University has become one of the vital hubs in internationalizing Reno and northern Nevada.
He pointed to a recent study by the Institute of International Education. In its publication "Open Doors," the economic impact in 2011 of 2,795 international students enrolled at Nevada System of Higher Education institutions was estimated to be more than $86 million.
"It's a pretty remarkable impact international students are having," Rios said. "They're a big part of our economy."
From his own perspective, Rios said his time at the University has taught him more about the international community than he could have ever imagined. He said his major of Spanish and Basque Studies "ties it all together," in that his goal is to one day live and work in other countries, teaching English.
"I love languages, and I love other cultures and my experiences at the University have really helped me improve my intercultural skills," he said.
In addition to the brain trust that international students provide, both to the United States and their homelands, Rios said students from foreign countries help impart new ideas, new ways of learning and new methods of thinking.
And, he added, events such as Night of All Nations, help bring cultures together in a way that everyday life sometimes doesn't.
"Every year the campus puts together a night where people can educate themselves, do crafts, do dances and eat good food," he said. "It's exciting for me to see. It reminds us we're not the only culture in the world."