Spanish Students Visit York Fair

The York Dispatch (York, PA), September 10, 2003, Local News
By Kristin Finan Dispatch/Sunday News


Rocio Gamero is perplexed by what she calls “fried biscuits.”

She’s been to fairs in her native Spain. But some of this food — the funnel cakes, fried dough and fried onions — seems odd.

“There are a lot of strange restaurants here,” said the 16-year-old, referring to the vendors she encountered yesterday at the York Fair. “We don’t have things like that.”

Nearly 30 Spanish students ages 14-17 received yet another lesson in American culture yesterday when they attended the fair. The teens are staying with foster families near Annapolis as part of the Intercultural Friends Foundation, a Maryland-based organization that brings Spanish students to the United States every summer.

Joann Smith, IFF coordinator and a native Yorker, said students will spend their visit attending classes at local high schools and taking day trips to attractions in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. She said when the opportunity arose to bring them to her hometown fair, she couldn’t pass it up.

“I thought the students would really enjoy it,” Smith said, adding that the students visited the Harley-Davidson plant earlier in the day. “We talk about the differences between the fairs here and the fairs in Spain. Their eyes lit up when they saw the rides.”

Francisco Sanchez, 16, said his stomach was aching as he stepped off the “Tango,” which spins, twists and turns riders high in the air. He said he comes from a very small town that usually has only bumper cars at its carnivals.

“They have a lot of attractions that are better than the fairs in my town,” Sanchez said.

A few suggestions: Other students said the huge rides, tricky games and greasy food were more familiar. They said they were impressed with York’s attractions, but they offered a quick list of things they said would make the fair feel more like home.

First, replace the blaring rock ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬and pop music with a little flamenco.

Hold on to the hamburgers and hot dogs, but sprinkle in a few more native Spanish treats.

In addition to providing goldfish as prizes, try iguanas — and turtles.

Finally, dress everyone in traditional Spanish garb and get them dancing.

“It’s just a very popular, very important celebration,” Sanchez said.

German Pons, 16, embraced the game-playing aspect of the York Fair, winning a basketball and a poster to take back to friends in Spain. He said he has already learned a great deal about American culture since arriving Sept. 4, and that he is particularly impressed by the height of some buildings and the numerous green areas within cities.

“I feel like I’m inside a movie,” Pons said.

The once bright, sharp lights of the Fireball, a circular attraction that zooms forward, then back, and at one point holds riders at the top for about 10 seconds, looked blurry to 17-year-old Ana Carrera as she stepped off.

“My head almost exploded,” she remarked.

The experience: As Carrera waited for her body to adjust to being on solid ground, she scanned the crowd, taking in the groups of people walking the area. Once she had her bearings, she said is impressed by the diversity she sees here.

“There are people of different cultures, races,” she said. “I like the mixture.”

She added that she likes being able to meet new people and practice her English. Smith, a former Spanish teacher, said three weeks can work wonders for a student’s proficiency.

“Three weeks of living with another family can make a tremendous difference in speaking ability,” Smith said.

But not everything about the United States is great, Carrera said. She said she’s having trouble adjusting to the larger amounts of food people eat here and the mealtimes. She said the noon lunchtime she adheres to while attending classes at American high school has been difficult to get used to, as she is used to eating one big meal at 3 p.m.

Yesterday, though the students had an opportunity to buy their own meals and eat when they wanted, none rushed to food stands at 3 p.m. Some said they were a little queasy from all the rides, while others said they weren’t too interested in treats whose names they couldn’t properly translate into Spanish.

Still, they proclaimed the fair a success, and offered an invitation.

“You must visit Spain,” Sanchez said. “You will like the food there. And the weather is very good.”

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