Sundui Chimidkhorloo noticed one thing missing last year when he found out about the St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society's annual festivities: his native country of Mongolia.
"Everybody loves their heritage. It's something I'm proud of," said Chimidkhorloo, a professional musician who will represent Mongolia for the first time at SPIFFS.
Mongolia will join 30 ethnic groups at Vinoy Park starting Thursday for the 37th annual fair. Most groups will have their own tents with ethnic foods and entertainment.
Chimidkhorloo said he has been struggling to find other Mongolians since he moved to Palm Harbor with his wife seven years ago. He said he hopes that his music on the horse head violin (or morin khuur) will represent his native country well and bring more attention to his culture.
Chimidkhorloo said he started playing at age 15. He has played locally, including a show at the Palladium Theater. He brought the authentic instrument from Mongolia, which is complete with a horse head carving on the top of the neck and strings made of horse hair. Although Chimidkhorloo plays many traditional Mongolian songs, he also plays American songs and some of his own compositions.
Members of the Scottish Cultural Society are also looking to appeal to a larger audience at SPIFFS. Goody Haines and Kathryn Waddell, who head the Scottish group's craft committee, designed a Loch Ness monster named Nessie to display at SPIFFS. They said they hope it will create some photo opportunities.
"I just love that we can share this with the children," Waddell said.
SPIFFS seems to have inspired a group of young men and women from Eckerd College who chose the fair from several volunteer organizations. Jon Murphy, a senior political science major from Eckerd, said SPIFFS has inspired him to teach children that there are more cultures out there besides American.
"I see all the different cultures meeting together," Murphy said.
Chimidkhorloo will play on all three days of the fair. He will also march and wave his flag in the Grand Parade of Nations, which will start at 2 p.m. Saturday. The group members wear their traditional costumes in the parade. For Chimidkhorloo, that includes a robe and a fur hat.
SPIFFS president Bill Parsons said he enjoys watching the different cultures together.
"Each group has their own identity,'' he said.