The Mountain Times

°F Wed, April 16, 2014

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The International Party celebrates 10th anniversary at new location

RUTLAND- It's almost midnight on Wednesday and the streets of Rutland are quiet, save the upbeat dance music rocking at The Local - mostly in foreign languages. Tonight is the International Party, where students (mostly from South America) join together to dance to their native hit music.

Most of these international students have been placed in resorts, including Killington, Pico, Stratton and Okemo, through a program called Universal Student Exchange (USE). This company that runs a popular "Work and Travel" program from mid-December through mid-March. The majority work at Killington and live in Rutland, but students are also bused over from Stratton and sometimes from Okemo to attend this weekly dance party.

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"During the first three years, Brazil, South Africa and New Zealand made up most of the crowd," explains Craig Hahn (better known as DJ Craig) the founder and coordinator of the International Party. "Since then Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile make up 90% or more of the international kids at the party." Over the past 10 years, Hahn has met many students who've come to area resorts for seasonal work and now has friends in Paraguay, Columbia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, India, South Korea, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, Moldova, Romania, Denmark, Russia, France, Ireland, Australia, Egypt and Canada, in addition to many in Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile, he says.

In order to please this diverse crowd, Hahn has learned a diverse play list of songs, which is constantly changing - it's no small task to stay current with styles that include Reggaeton, Salsa and Meringue (from South America), Baile Funk, Axe and Samba (from Brazil,) House and Hip Hop music from around the world and other hits that rarely make it to most parts of the USA.

Before the season starts Hahn usually asks returning students what's been "hot" on the radios back home so he can build up his collection for the season. "Some kids send me CDs, others email me some of their favorites, some of which I can find and some I cannot," he explains.

The international party started during the 2003-2004 winter season.

"The main reason I wanted to start the party was to give the International kids a night of their own," said Hahn in an interview last season. "It's a night where they can gather together and dance to music from home."

The first season was surprisingly, tough, Hahn remembers. "I had gone to many venues in Killington to ask if the party could be hosted there and every time I was turned down," he said. "It was always the same 'An International Party would never work in Killington' they'd say." But Hahn was not deterred.

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Then John Hurley opened a restaurant called the Dancing Fish, and agreed to host the first International Party. By the end of the season it had grown in popularity, but because the restaurant was located in a hotel they had to lower the music after 10 p.m. So they moved it to the Bull Pen the following year, then the Upper Deck the year after that, then briefly to the Pickle Barrel before finding a home at Charity's on Monday nights, where the party lasted for five years.

"The parties were always popular. After that first year restaurant owners were coming up to me requesting to host the party the following year," Hahn remembered.

This year, the international party is at The Local, a nightclub in Rutland. It is the first time a venue has not been located in Killington.

"I would have loved to stay at Charity's," said Hahn, "But fire code rules changed at the end of last season, which prohibited us from exceeding 99 people there. That just wasn't going to work, as we packed the place. So I looked for another place that could accommodate us all… The Local was really eager to host us, so we are trying it here," Hahn said, playing the next Brazilian hit for a cheering crowd last Wednesday.

Allowing an 18+ club is a recent change for Rutland. Charles Greeno, the owner of The Local on Merchants Row, approached the Rutland aldermen last winter seeking permission to do 18-and-over parties like those for Killington's international workers at clubs on the mountain. While state law puts no age restrictions on entering bars for people who are not drinking, Rutland has an ordinance saying: "No person under the age of 21 years shall be permitted to enter or remain on the premises of an over twenty-one club unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, except for entertainers hired to work in the club."

Working with the aldermen, city attorney and Charter and Ordinance committee, Greeno has been permitted to operate an 18+ club for the time being. All entrants must show ID to get a stamp and wristband allowing them to drink alcohol. Those younger than 21, will be given a black "X" on each hand. The club is well staffed with security patrolling the area for underage drinking.

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"So far we have had no problems during international night," said Hahn. "These kids are here to have fun, and for the most part they don't tolerate those that are looking for trouble… if someone bumps into someone else they don't turn around and get huffy, it's not like that here and no one wants it to be."

Outside in the back patio, Bianca was laughing with some old friends. She was back visiting for the winter. "I did the Work Travel program two years ago," she said, "but I am no longer a student, so I'm just here visiting until April."

Her experience working at Killington and living in Rutland was amazing, she said, "I just love it here, I want to find a way to come back, but it's hard." Bianca now pursuing a career as a translator in Brazil. "I am perfecting my english skills here this winter," she explained.

Last winter, Eriko Kohatsu was here on exchange and echoed similar feelings of her experience.

"When we go back home we talk about our experiences here and look forward to coming back... Every time I hear someone talk about doing an exchange I always tell them to go to Vermont. It's beautiful and everyone is friendly," she said.

The international party begins at 9 p.m. and ends at 2 a.m. every Wednesday night at The Local.