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Festival Spreads Awareness of Deaf Culture

MATC-Oak Creek will host the Deaf Awareness Fest, an event that focuses on deaf traditions, American Sign Language and more.

Here's a cultural festival in the Milwaukee area you may not be familiar with.

Milwaukee Area Technical College's Oak Creek campus this weekend will play host to the Deaf Awareness Fest, which aims to spread awareness about deafness and deaf culture.

The festival, held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, has events focusing on deaf traditions, American Sign Language, deaf genealogy and more.

"We want to share our language and our culture," said Katy Schmidt, secretary of the WAD board of directors.

The fest also includes a skit from the Anderson Twins. The comedy duo, one of whom is deaf and one isn't, will highlight the funny side of the two worlds.

In a press release, WAD President Jenny Buechner said the fest draws attention to the services and resources available within the deaf community.

"This event also allows us to share with everyone the richness of our culture and community through the workshops, comedy show and exhibitions," she said.

The fest has activities for both the hearing and the hard of hearing. Schmidt said one of the misconceptions is that deaf people don't accept hearing people, but that simply isn't the case.

"We're really open-minded," she said. "We want to embrace hearing people. We want them to learn from us and respect our culture at the same time."

And plenty of interpreters will be on hand, so communication at the festival should not be an issue, Schmidt added.

The event has attracted 600 people over the last two years, but Schmidt said she is expecting a bigger turnout this year. Organizers have made a stronger effort to bring in more people from outside the deaf community, she said.

Later in the evening, the WAD is hosting Deaf Awareness Day at Miller Park during the Milwaukee Brewers game.

Visit the fest's website for more information.

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