Members of the Los Angeles consular corps drove their families to a ranch in the Santa Monica mountains Oct. 28 to enjoy a western family barbecue, Native American dances and a pioneer village, all sponsored by the Southern California Public Affairs Council of the Church.
The guests, who numbered more than 300, represented 27 countries and included 15 consuls. They were given cowboy hats and bandannas to go with their casual attire of jeans and checkered shirts.
Elder Tad R. Callister, Area Authority Seventy, introduced U.S. Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon.
"This is a great chance for us to share our cultures," Rep. McKeon said as he welcomed the guests.
Deng Ying, deputy consul general of the People's Republic of China, agreed.
"It is a very good opportunity to make friends," she said, "and it is an opportunity to let people from my consulate know about American culture."
She said she had previously enjoyed performances by the BYU Ballroom Dance Company and the BYU Folk Dancers in Beijing, and said they are very popular in her country.
In addition to a gymnastics performance by Peter Vidmar, U.S. Olympic gold medalist, and his son, Steven, 12, the guests were entertained by the BYU Folk Dancers, whose repertoire ranged from the Virginia Reel to energetic clogging formations, and the BYU Living Legends, who performed Native American dances in full Indian regalia, including the intricate hoop dance. Both groups subsequently taught dances to the many children and adults who wanted to learn them.
Among the people most appreciative of the dancing was Sigal Shalev from the Israeli consulate.
"Everything is wonderful," she said, "especially the dancing."
A constantly crowded addition to this year's event was the pioneer village, where members in pioneer dress explained the Mormon trek and taught early American skills, such as how to use a spinning wheel, how to make rope and how to make fabric dolls. The visitors sampled apple brown betty cooked over an open fire and went home wearing rings made from horseshoe nails.
As Sharon Ricci of the Liberian consulate sat eating lunch, she said how favorably impressed she and her husband had been with the pioneer village.
"After lunch, we are going back there," she said. "I want to make my own doll."
Several visitors said they were delighted there were so many things for the children to do. There were paddle boats, a petting zoo, an air pillow, pony rides, games of horseshoes and several crafts in the pioneer village.
"This is my first time here," said Lourdes Recalde, consul general from Nicaragua. "I will tell all my people to come next time."
Fernando Daly, consul general from Panama, said it was wonderful to see families from all nations together, not just their own families, but the whole human family.
"When there is so much turmoil in the world, you have Israel and Lebanon together as families," he said. "Do you know who is making this possible? God! And it is because of what your church is doing."
Perhaps the international spirit of goodwill was best summarized by Bo West, multi-stake director of public affairs from Redlands. He said he had gone to look for his American wife, and found her talking and laughing with four people from Romania and one from Mexico. And all of them were speaking Spanish!
The following 27 countries were represented at the Western Family Barbecue: Armenia, Belgium, Belize, Cambodia, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Israel, Jamaica, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, People's Republic of China, Poland, Romania, South Africa, St. Lucia, Syria and Uruguay.