Annual festival sparks cultural awareness
WORTHINGTON -- From American bluegrass to Celtic dance, African rhythm and Korean dancers, the 17th annual International Festival this Friday and Saturday in Worthington should have broad public appeal.
Hosted on the plaza of the Nobles County Government Center downtown, the event highlighting the community's cultural diversity will begin with a 5:30 p.m. opening ceremony Friday. A parade of flags representing 40 countries from around the world will kick off the event. Local Boy Scouts will present the colors, and the "Amazing" Worthington City Band will perform the National Anthem.
The remainder of the evening will include two performances by Zili Misik, playing music from the African diaspora. Leann Enninga, chair of the International Festival committee, said the group of eight women includes musicologists and music professors.
"They're going to have a really good mix of music, all with an African base," she said, adding that they will perform rhythms from Africa, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
Performances by Zili Misik are at 6 and 8 p.m. Friday, with a talent show at 6:45 p.m.
Ten different groups are slated to entertain the crowds Saturday, beginning with Nicolas Carter performing Paraguayan music at 11 a.m. Carter may be familiar to some, having performed at the International Festival several years ago.
Carter will be followed by Bob Walser, who is partially sponsored by a grant to further develop the arts in the community. Walser is "big in audience participation," said Enninga, adding that he will teach the crowds Celtic dance moves.
Following his program, Walser will participate in children's activities, which are planned from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Additional activities for the kids include piñata breaking and a 4-H-sponsored petting zoo.
A Karen dance performance by people from Burma, formerly Myanmar, is at 12:55 p.m., with Scandinavian music performed by Skalmusic to follow.
Leo Lara and Latin American music will be on the festival plaza by 3 p.m., with eastern African music performed by Mesfin Yetesha slated to begin at 3:40 p.m.
Mu Gung Hwa, a group of Korean children dancers, will return to the festival for the second consecutive year to perform at 4:45 p.m.
"They are so colorful and so fun to watch," said Enninga. "When we find a group we really like, we like to bring them back for a second year."
The remainder of the day includes performances by the Roe Family Singers, a Lao performance and the Mariachi Flor y Canto.
Enninga said the Roe Family Singers will perform bluegrass music, while Mariachi Flor y Canto will feature sounds of the Latino community.
"One of the lead singers in the group also writes music," Enninga said. "Musically, they are top-notch. It's a great way to end the evening on Saturday."
In addition to the music, ethnic and artisan booths will be open throughout the festival, selling items and showcasing cultural wares. Among the items for sale is Guatemalan coffee, with proceeds to be given to a coffee cooperative in Guatemala.
There will also be plenty of food to sample.
"We have some of our standards -- African food, Asian food, Latino food and German brats," said Enninga. "On Friday night, we're going to have Cold Stone Creamery there with ice cream."
Ice cream will be sold as a fundraiser for the Worthington-Crailsheim program, she added.
Enninga reminds people to bring a comfortable lawn chair or blanket to the festival. Picnic tables will be set up, and some seating is available on the plaza.
The International Festival wouldn't be possible without donations from businesses and individuals from throughout the community.
Enninga said they have added a quilt raffle this year to help raise funds to bring entertainers to the community for the annual event. Only 500 raffle tickets are being sold, with the drawing at approximately 7:30 p.m. Saturday. A limited number of tickets will be available for purchase at the festival.
Enninga said free-will donations will also be taken.
"I think one of the things that's really fun about the festival is that it has evolved from a potluck meal where people wanted to get to know their neighbors," she added.
From that first meeting, plans for a larger gathering began to form.
The International Festival now has its own website, where people can read more about the performers, view a schedule of events and take a survey, which Enninga encourages people to complete following the festival. Input from those surveys will be used to plan entertainment in future years.
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