Diane Rogers, of Omotayo Rite of Passage, Fort Wayne, leads a group in a drum circle during One Warsaw’s Celebrating Us event downtown Warsaw. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Diane Rogers, of Omotayo Rite of Passage, Fort Wayne, leads a group in a drum circle during One Warsaw’s Celebrating Us event downtown Warsaw. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Beating of the drums Saturday afternoon downtown Warsaw celebrated community and connection.

Leading the drum circle during One Warsaw’s Celebrating Us annual event was Diane Rogers, Fort Wayne. The name of her organization is Omotayo Rite of Passage.

“This is a program I use with the children. I’m a retired police officer. I did 27 years on the southeast side of my community, so everything I do is about community, family and children. And to connect us and break down this disconnect. My whole goal is to continue to keep playing the drums so somebody else can keep playing it after I’m gone,” Rogers said after the drum circle finished.

This is her 44th year doing drum circles, she said.

“I’ve been (doing) drum circles and I’ve been working with children so that’s what I do. I have a program called Respect for Law where I teach children how to ... all kinds of things to bring community and families together,” she said.

She’s been to Indianapolis, Marion and even represented Indiana in Washington, D.C., for The Very Special Arts conference.

If children have an interest in drumming  and a learning disability, “that’s not a disability to me. That’s an opportunity and that’s how I treat it,” Rogers said.

“Everything I do is to connect us together. That’s all I can tell you,” she said.

She said drums bring people together “all the time because it’s the one instrument that’s connected to the main organ of your body that pumps and once your heart stops, you’re no good.”

Learn more about Omotayo Rite of Passage at https://omotayorite.com/.

Shortly after the drum circle ended, the weather caused the outdoor annual event to pack up early, but organizers thought the turnout was good for its first year back in-person after the last two years of the pandemic.

Jonna Watson, One Warsaw Board of Directors secretary, said, “I think we had a really good turnout, and I was really happy with being able to do this for the first time in person really in a couple of years. The sun came out for a little bit. There was great dancing and a lot of booths. I think it was a really well attended event.”

One of the many booths at Celebrating Us - and one that even piqued Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer’s interest - was for the Warsaw Cricket Academy. They even offered a try-it demonstration.

Vishnu Teja Bhavirsetty, a player with the Warsaw Cricket Academy, said they had a group of over 50 people who are playing the sport actively in the area.

“We want to encourage everybody here who is interested in the sport to come join us,” he said.

The Academy has been playing for about six years and started with 20 people, Bhavirsetty said. Zimmer Biomet and other companies around started collaborating with them and the organization blossomed.

He said they do have new facilities for cricket in Warsaw coming up, around 2024. They also will be using a field over by Lakeland Christian Academy.

“We are going to promote Warsaw Cricket Club across Indiana, and then we do play in a few tournaments in Chicagoland area and then the Midwest area, like Louisville and Ohio. So, we are trying to make sure we have a facility first and then we will ask them to come here and play. We want to play bigger,” Bhavirsetty stated.

With cricket games and tournaments coming here, he said that will bring more people to Warsaw who will then know about the community.

Bhavirsetty said cricket is a very big sport in Asia and it’s growing in the United States.

“It’s very simple,” he said of the rules of the game. “It’s similar to baseball with a different set of rules, but it’s very easily understandable. A lot of people in Florida from the West Indies. ... It’s easy, it’s not tough,” he said.  

One group of performers Saturday was Ballet Folklorico dancers for Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Fabiola Nunez began the group in 2009 to educate families and audiences about Mexican history and culture, to strengthen national identity of Mexican Americans and to create a significant and permanent connection to their cultural heritage.

Their performance Saturday was from Jalisco, Mexico, and included the songs “El son de La Negra,” “Machetes” and “El Jarabe Tapatio.”

Right now, she said she only has eight students and most of her kids are first- to third-graders because after that the students usually get busier in other activities.

“I always get new students. This group that I have right now is from last year, so I’m going to get more new students this year for Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Nunez said.

A number of local companies had booths set up Saturday for the event. Four of the booths around the county courthouse represented four different resource groups from Zimmer Biomet, including Exhale, ABLE (African and Black Leadership for Excellence), ASIAN (Altogether Stronger and Inclusive Asian Network) and WIN (Women Inspired Network).

Cassandra Roberts, a quality office coordinator with Zimmer Biomet, explained that Exhale is an employee resource group for the LGBTQ+ community and their allies.

“So it’s just about making a safe and welcoming environment within the company and making connections and networking and just celebrating the diversity, equity and inclusion of our team members,” she said.

She said it’ll be a year in June since Exhale was formed. “So it’s very new right now. We have 100 members. It’s global, across all ZB sites, so we’re working on different local chapters and getting ourselves out there more and connecting with people in the community,” Roberts said.

Exhale’s leadership team has weekly meetings with representatives from Madrid, Spain; Amsterdam; Columbia; Switzerland and “whoever can join.”

“We have a lot coming up, especially for Pride. We’re going to do global Pride stuff, so anything we can do to get ourselves out there,” Roberts said.

Carina Thunell, a development engineer with Zimmer Biomet, said ABLE is dedicated to promoting diversity and community engagement at Zimmer Biomet and externally.

“I’m on our Community Outreach and Communications subcommittees. So we do a lot of events like this for community outreach, or we’ll sponsor families for the holidays, or do back-to-school drives or give presentations at schools to let people know more about black history and just more about Zimmer Biomet and orthopaedics in general because there’s not a lot of minorities in the orthopaedic space right now. Part of that is just lack of knowledge so people can’t really get into careers they don’t know about. So we want to open up people’s ideas and experiences so they know they can be product managers, they can be development engineers, they can be sales rep, all in the orthopaedic space, if they want to,” Thunell said.

At the booth for Cardinal Services, Community Relations Director Michelle Boxell said the booth was for the organization in general but they were featuring Red Bird art so people can see some of the art that the people of Cardinal Services are doing in the studio.

“I think people are really surprised when they see how good some of it is,” she said.

The art they create is up to them.

“They do whatever they want to do,” she said. “So it isn’t like an art class where you come in and the teacher has at your spot the same things as the next person’s spot. Each artist gets to come in and choose from the supplies in the studio - which are quite extensive - what they want to do. So if they want to do beading, they do beading and jewelry work. If they want to do painting, they do painting. If they want to do sewing, they can work on the sewing machine and we have a ton of donated fabrics that they can choose from to work with. So they can choose the type of artwork that they want to create really from their own artistic expression.”

She said that’s what speaks to people when they come in to see it - it’s different, it’s artistic.

Around the corner was the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts booth. Executive Director Lakesha Green said they wanted to be a part of Saturday’s event because theater is community, it’s arts and culture coming together.

“We are the imitation of life. So, in giving that life of how to express ourselves, why not be a part of something that’s bringing everybody together as one? Because that’s what theater is. When we come to theater, we’re coming as one. You leave that show whole. You experience that show together, so why not come to this event and experience that of all cultures, all ethnicities, all everything here so that’s the beautiful part of why we are part of this,” Green said.

The summer season at the Wagon Wheel is getting ready to kick off, which will feature a diverse selection of shows.

“We have ‘Comedy of Errors.’ It’s not going to be your traditional Shakespeare. It’s going to be set in the 1920s, I just let that slip out,” she said. “And, of course, ‘Cinderella’ is not even going to be the same. All of the focus isn’t on Cinderella, it’s going to be somewhat on the prince. This is going to be like a cool (show) where the guy gets to really see and experience love as well and the coolness of it.”

There also will be “The Addams Family,” “Brigadoon” and “Legally Blonde.”

Tippy River Adventures also had a booth. Jody Claypool, co-owner, said they are a canoe and kayak livery.

“So we rent kayaks and canoes or provide the transportation services here locally. We’re going to open a section up off Fox Farm (Road). That’s the embarkment location over by G & G Excavating, and we disembark over at Creighton Brothers, the Crazy Egg Cafe,” Claypool said.

Their first opening is next month. Ryan Martin, co-owner, said this will be their first season in business.

For more information about kayaking or canoeing on the Tippecanoe River, visit the website www.TippyRiverAdventures.com; email info@tippyriveradventures.com; or call 574-376-2528.

After watching performances and walking around the booths, Thallemer said, “There’s a lot of really exciting, different faces and opportunities today and I’m glad that there’s a lot of folks here. It’s been fun.”

He said it was nice to have the event back and to have Warsaw come together. He said his favorite spot was hitting the cricket ball at the Warsaw Cricket Academy booth.

Follow One Warsaw on Facebook or its website at onewarsaw.org.