On Feb. 28, Upstate International will host an international murder mystery dinner party to start off their annual International Month. The event, a meal featuring Bavarian dishes, will feature groups of 10 people investigating who “murdered” one of their fellow guests.
Why exactly did Upstate International choose to organize a murder mystery night to begin their month-long festival? “Because it’s cool,” says Tracie Frese, Upstate International’s executive director.
In previous years, they’ve organized galas and international trivia nights as a way to ring in International Month. The dinner is also a fundraiser for the organization. “This year,” she says, “we wanted to do something unique.”
For 2020, Frese and the organization decided on a “kind of a good old adult version of [the board game] Clue.” While discussing murder mysteries with some people at Upstate International, a volunteer said he had organized murder mystery nights in Africa. The idea blossomed.
The mystery takes the guest back to 1936, on a train traveling through the Austrian Alps. Seated with nine other guests per table, guests have to interact with each other to figure out who the murderer is.
The rest of International Month isn’t so mysterious. Under the theme of “fun on a global scale,” you can find out all the different activities being organized on Upstate International’s calendar at upstateinternational.org. While they don’t host each event, Upstate International works with the hosts to market the activity. And those activities can run up to around 100 in March with between 50-60 participating organizations.
“There’s no reason to be bored in March,” Frese says. Throughout the month, she explains, Upstate International attempts to get people to do something foreign that they might not have thought to do before, like attending an international performance at the Peace Center or participating in a bilingual storytime event. Frese says the activities during International Month are about “bringing the world home, in a very tangible, fun way.”
With each year, participation in the month grows. “The effort right now is to grow it regionally,” Frese says. She especially wants people to know that there are international presences besides just Greenville and Spartanburg. “We’ve had events in 4 to 5 counties, so our goal is to grow the effort across the 10 counties of the Upstate.”
International Month is just one of the events organized by Upstate International. The over 20-year-old nonprofit organization supports a variety of activities from language courses to an international women’s group. They also co-host events like the Greenville Jewish Film Festival and hold their own, especially through their membership with the World Affairs Council.
Paramount to their work is diversity and inclusion, Frese says. Regardless of socioeconomic background, race, religion or age, people should be able to participate in Upstate International events.
An example of that inclusion is Salsa at Sunset. Though only organized in the warmer months, the event is attended by many. “We wanted to provide a free public opportunity for cultures to come together and kind of have a community building experience,” Frese says. “It’s the most diverse event, I think, that people go to. There’s every age and every culture.”