International Festival: Bridging immigrants was key to Krapf’s service on festival committee
He is one of two Friends of the Festival to be honored this year
WORTHINGTON — When Jim Krapf retired from his role as pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in 2012, he found several community causes with which to volunteer. The International Festival quickly became near and dear to his heart because of the people he met and the conversations sparked between immigrants both new and not-so-new.
A member of the International Festival committee since 2013, Krapf is one of two individuals being recognized this year as a Friend of the Festival. Unfortunately, Krapf and his wife, Cynthia, are heading out of town with a moving van the day before the festival’s start — that’s when the movers were available. The couple will make their new home in Pensacola, Florida, near their daughter and three grandsons.
Looking back on his decade-long service to the International Festival committee, Krapf said the effort has been important to him, starting with the immigrant conversations conducted on the Thursday evening prior to the outdoor festival’s start.
“Thursday night focused more on really getting to know our immigrant neighbors and understanding their situations,” shared Krapf, who is excited to see that tradition carry on this year thanks to Worthington High School counselor Jesse Nitzschke and Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center director Tammy Makram and the program they have planned.
“I’m very pleased that they’re carrying this on,” Krapf said. “I think they have a marvelous presentation that should have impact as well.”
The immigrant conversations portion of the International Festival began with Krapf reading excerpts from the book, “Immigrant German Farmer.” The book is composed of more than 200 letters written by German immigrants who settled in east central Iowa, where Krapf grew up. The book’s author took the letters and created a composite as though the letters were written by one individual.
“Then we would have three new immigrants tell their story and include parallels of what happened with the German immigrants,” said Krapf. In later years, they read excerpts from the book and had more face-to-face dialogue with attendees.
“It was important to me to find those parallels between my ancestors and the new immigrants arriving now,” he said. “It built some appreciation and understanding.”
And that connection goes both ways.
Krapf said during a visit to El Salvador several years ago, he asked the people what gave them hope.
“They said, ‘You now know our story.’ That stuck with me for decades,” Krapf said. “Helping people know the story of their neighbors, I think, is positive.”
Related to his volunteerism with the festival, Krapf has also tutored ESL and citizenship classes through District 518 Community Education. He has interacted with many new immigrants through both organizations.
“I admire the tenacity, the courage of people who have left their homes to try and improve things for their families,” he said. “My grandfather came to the U.S. from Germany when he was a teenager. I often imagine what that might have been like for him.”
Last year, when the International Festival chose to honor essential workers — the people who continued to work during the pandemic, putting their own life at risk — Krapf saw people of all ethnicities take part in a parade and be recognized. They were local residents who worked with health, food, education and government.
“I’m glad the festival had a way of (bringing them together),” Krapf said. “We needed each other.”
Krapf hopes that the International Festival will continue to celebrate all people, bring us together to learn from each other and build a healthy, diverse community.
“I hope that some year we’ll get back,” he added.