Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane at the Girl Scout International Fair

by Sandra Foyt on March 12, 2011

in Enrichment Ideas

On Sunday, March 13, 2011, the Rensselaer County Girl Scout International Fair will return to the McDonough Sports Complex at Hudson Valley Community College. For one afternoon, the center will be transformed into a junior United Nations filled with pageantry, imaginative booths, and delicious foods inspired by cuisines from around the world.

For many years, the International Fair was the highlight of the year for my Girl Scout troop. Not fazed by all the work involved, my girls pleaded to participate in the fair. Even now, I suspect that given half a chance, they would love to enter a booth in the fair.

Just for kicks, I thought it might be fun to take a stroll down memory lane.

Rensselaer County  Girl Scout International Fair 2003


The first year that we attended the fair, the girls were so young – Brownies in 1st Grade, and we had no idea what to expect, so we attended as spectators with the general public. That was our easiest year.  Entering the fair, each girl received a passport that was stamped at the “around the world” booths, each representing a different country. They came armed with a little pocket change from home to shop for handmade souvenirs, and with none priced above a quarter, the girls acquired quite the haul. Both activities were extremely popular with our troop.

Rensselaer County Girl Scout International Fair 2004 – Argentina


The next year, our troop represented Argentina and we went all out  with both a booth and a dance performance at the fair.  My Tia Nelly, an Argentine folkloric dance instructor in Washington, D.C., taught the girls a basic dance that they performed on a stage in front of a packed audience. And I shared our family recipe for making Dulce de Leche and Mate Cocido, which the girls sold at their booth. It was a memorable event, but the combination of performance and booth was a little too much for us.

Rensselaer County Girl Scout International Fair 2005 – Brazil


In 2005, our troop drew Brazil in the International Fair lottery, and I decided this would be a good time to teach them about poverty. In addition to learning about the rainforests of Brazil and its other treasures, the girls researched favelas. For their booth, they attempted to create a mini-favela with foamboard houses hanging from across a clothesline. Not very authentic, but heartfelt nonetheless. And for the souvenir, the girls glued on eyeballs on Brazil Nuts to make silly faces.

Rensselaer County Girl Scout International Fair 2006 – The Netherlands


In our final year of participating at the International Fair, the girls drew The Netherlands which was perfect because they were learning about New York’s Dutch heritage in school.

We researched this all year long, planning field trips and other activities that tied into the topic. By the time they were ready to assemble a booth, they had amassed a wealth of knowledge and design inspirations. At Fort Crailo, the girls learned that the early Dutch settlers treasured Delft tile, and that they would gather by the fireplace to share stories illustrated by the tiles on the mantle.

For their booth, the girls decided to recreate an early fireplace out of cardboard that they decorated with hand drawn posterboard tiles. They also made wooden tulip flowers to sell as souvenirs.

As a culminating event, we couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

After that, the girls were too busy for the international fair, or even for Girl Scouts. One by one, the girls dropped out to focus on other activities. That’s a shame, as there are few organizations that focus on girl leadership or that offer opportunities to learn about global issues at the high school level.

Given our increasingly global interdependence, our children need more opportunities like this one.

| Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on GetawayMavens.com, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at SandraFoyt.com, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email: sandrafoyt@albanykid.com, Twitter @SandraFoyt.

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