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California City Solutions: Elk Grove Creates Multicultural Event and Awareness in the Community

July 10, 2015
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries.
The 2014 entries are available on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California City Solutions. Elk Grove’s Multicultural Awareness Program and Annual Festival was submitted in 2014 for the Economic Development through the Arts award category.
The city of Elk Grove is increasingly diverse with a mix of cultures and ethnicities. The Elk Grove City Council made it a priority to support and promote the community’s social and cultural interests. A recently-formed Multicultural Committee helps accomplish this goal with a diversity awareness program and citywide Diversity Pledge, and an annual Multicultural Festival that attracts more than 7,000 and features ethnic entertainment, food, and exhibits representing the city’s diverse community.
Incorporated in July 2000, the city of Elk Grove is Sacramento County’s second largest city. Due in large part to the city’s rapid growth between 2003 and 2005, the population is now just over 159,000 — more than double its total in 2000. According to the Census Bureau, Elk Grove in 2006 was designated the nation’s fastest growing city.
The 2010 U.S. Census reports Elk Grove’s racial makeup comprises 46.1 percent White, 18 percent Hispanic or Latino, 26.3 percent Asian, 11.2 percent Black or African American, 1.2 percent Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 0.6 percent Native American and Alaska Native, and 7.9 percent from two or more races.
The Elk Grove City Council established a 10-member Multicultural Committee in September 2011 to foster Elk Grove’s social and cultural interests and promote the city’s rich cultural diversity.
The Multicultural Committee’s objectives included:
  • Developing and promoting a diversity awareness program that would encourage residents to show support for acceptance of all cultures. The committee wanted to reach more than 1,000 residents with the program in 2013.
  • Planning an annual Elk Grove multicultural festival that would bring together the Elk Grove community in a unified appreciation of the city’s rich cultural diversity. The success of the event was measured by the number of participants and vendors, sponsorship revenue and media coverage. In 2013, the committee aimed at attracting at least 5,000 participants (1,000 more participants than the inaugural Multicultural Festival in 2012), eight food vendors and ten performances, with a goal of raising $15,000 in sponsorship revenue from the business community.
  • Educating the community about Elk Grove's cultural diversity and providing guidance to the city council on issues impacting multicultural communities. 
The Multicultural Committee immediately hit the ground running with the core of the program being a Diversity Pledge. This call to action encourages residents to show support for acceptance of all cultures. Community members can take the pledge online at www.ElkGroveDiversityPledge.org.
The website also features a Diversity Face Jumble, allowing visitors to upload a headshot photo that is then mixed with photos of other Elk Grove faces. The awareness program is promoted through multiple channels and platforms to ensure maximum visibility throughout the community. The program’s starting budget was $10,000 to develop and produce all materials, including the awareness program website.
The Multicultural Committee and city communications team planned and implemented all aspects of a multifaceted festival, including logistics, sponsorship outreach to the business community, entertainment recruitment and auditions, food vendor outreach and outreach to community nonprofits.
The festival was widely promoted, including local newspaper advertisements, the city’s newsletter and website, a freeway readerboard billboard, 62 city buses and flyers that were sent home with more than 62,000 students in the Elk Grove Unified School District. In addition, the Elk Grove City Council and Multicultural Committee established Aug. 24-30 as Cultural Awareness Week to recognize the many cultures that make up Elk Grove’s population.
More than 7,000 participants attended the second annual Multicultural Festival in August 2013, which was double the 2012 inaugural festival. The event featured a wide variety of ethnic foods, music, entertainment, fashion shows and activities for kids. The event also had more than 23 demonstrations from Hmong, Mexican, Indian, Serbian, Sikh, West African and Afro-Caribbean, Azteca, Filipino, Brazilian, Hawaiian, Vietnamese, and Punjabi performers, square dancers, a Chinese orchestra and martial artists.
The interactive activities for children included face painting and art projects that promoted diversity. Additionally, more than a dozen food vendors offered a variety of ethnic cuisines, with local artists showcasing cultural artwork, and at least 60 nonprofits, churches, local artists and community groups had booths to educate the community about their culture or organization. The event was sponsored by several prominent local businesses, resulting in more than $22,000 sponsorship donations, which was $5,000 more than the previous year. U.S. Representative Ami Bera and Assembly Member Richard Pan also joined the Elk Grove City Council and Multicultural Committee at the event.
The event benefited from extensive media coverage. Coverage included: multiple articles in the Sacramento Bee and Elk Grove Citizen and Elk Grove Patch, as well as a special section in the Elk Grove Citizen and additional articles in the Glenbrook News, Elk Grove News, and Laguna Citizen. The Sacramento Bee’s coverage included a prominent, front page article with photos on the front page of the Our Region section in a Sunday edition — the most highly read edition of the week. Television news coverage included Good Day Sacramento, KCRA, and Fox 40. Print advertisements reached more than 900,000 viewers.
At the festival, more than 900 participants signed the city’s Diversity Pledge poster. Hundreds had their photos taken in a photo booth, which were then included on the interactive face jumble on the Diversity Pledge website.
The Elk Grove diversity awareness program has achieved the following:
  • More than 2,600 posters featuring the pledge were displayed in every classroom in the Elk Grove Unified School District;
  • 200 posters were displayed in community centers, fire departments, public buildings, libraries and teen centers;
  • Extensive media coverage in local news outlets, including KCRA, News 10, Fox 40, KFBK, the Sacramento Bee’s news and editorial sections, the Elk Grove Citizen and a variety online forums and blogs;
  • The Sacramento Bee published an editorial titled “Elk Grove is smart to honor its rainbow” that applauded the city’s commitment to recognizing and celebrating cultural diversity;
  • More than 10,000 bracelets promoting the program were distributed at community events and classroom presentations; and
  • A readerboard ad on busy Highway 99, reached up to 100,000 motorists daily. 
Since 2012, more than 3,400 have signed the diversity pledge. Framed pictures featuring signed names are proudly displayed at City Hall. In addition, the city has received more than 12 calls from communities throughout the nation to learn from our multicultural awareness program.

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