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2016 Winternational festival attracts a record 37 embassies

By James Cullum

A bustling global marketplace was on display Dec. 7, with more than 3,000 people and a record 37 embassies participating in the fifth annual Winternational Embassy Showcase at Washington’s Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, led by Trade Center Management Associates (TCMA), the firm that manages the building.

Last year, more than 2,500 guests and 34 embassies participated in this vibrant annual midday celebration, which is free and open to the public.

“This is a far different event than when we started five years ago with five embassies and had 200 people in attendance,” said John Drew, president and CEO of TCMA. “There’s nothing else going on in D.C. like this. This is a cultural showcase where people from Europe, Africa and the Middle East are all talking about what’s going on in their countries. And participants have an opportunity to mix and mingle with ambassadors and diplomats to learn about different cultures and traditions.”

Members of Trade Center Management Associates (TCMA) for the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center who led the Winternational showcase pose in a photo. From left are: Lanna Nguyen, marketing manager; Allyson Browne McKithen, senior operations manager; John P. Drew, president and CEO; Jan Du Plain, embassy liaison; Andrew Gelfuso, vice president; and Hosai Rashid, program manager. Photos: James Cullum.

Over 3,000 people filled the atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building for the fifth annual Winternational midday celebration of international culture.

Ambassadors and diplomats from a record 37 embassies were represented at this year’s Winternational showcase.

Andrew Gelfuso, vice president of Trade Center Management Associates, opened the program and thanked the embassies for participating in this one-of-a-kind event and for sharing their cultural heritage and promoting their nations.

The countries and missions represented this year included: Afghanistan, African Union, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Botswana, Costa Rica, Egypt, European Union Delegation, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Mozambique, Nepal, Oman, Panama, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts and Nevis, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay and Uzbekistan.

The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center opened in 1998 as the first and only federal building dedicated to both government and private use. Mandated by Congress to bring together the country’s best public and private resources to create a national forum for the advancement of trade, TCMA was selected as the building’s exclusive manager in support of this mission.

Mele Melton, left, and Stephanie Miser attend the fifth annual Winternational, held Dec. 7 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. 

From left, Miss Ghana Tourism USA Quame Paulina Clark; Kumar Shrestha of Nepal; and Miss District of Columbia Cierra Jackson attend the fifth annual Winternational cultural showcase.

Odirile Ramona of Botswana performs at the fifth annual Winternational cultural showcase.

Covering 3.1 million square feet, the Ronald Reagan Building ranks as the largest federal building in Washington. The TCMA team at RRB/ITC provides a central forum for building connections, fostering diplomacy and advancing global commerce by offering a rich mix of signature events such as high-profile economic summits, conferences, business matchmaking seminars and cultural programs such as Winternational.

The colorful, packed extravaganza in the expansive Ronald Reagan atrium featured an array of booths and information exhibitions that spotlighted different nations’ culture, cuisine, arts and crafts, trade, tourism and traditional dress. Thousands of visitors could wander and learn more about dozens of countries spanning the globe.

Botswana was among the many countries in attendance.

Costa Rican Ambassador Román Macaya, left, and Ronald Reagan Building Embassy Liaison Jan Du Plain attend the fifth annual Winternational cultural showcase. 

Handicrafts from around the world were on display at Winternational.

“We didn’t know what to expect last year, so this year we decided to go really big,” David John Newman, Botswana’s ambassador to the United States, told the Pouch. “We brought a cultural promoter to come and dance and spread the word” about Botswana, a stable, landlocked nation in southern Africa that’s home to two million people.

“Tourism revenue is now number two to diamonds and will become number one,” the ambassador proudly said. “We have no weapons or hunting and incredible wildlife. We are custodians to a third of all of Africa’s elephants. We’ve never had any conflict within the country since we gained independence. Over 50 percent of our budget goes to education and public health, so we’re on the right track.”


James Cullum is a contributor to The Washington Diplomat.



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