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27th Worthington International Festival is ready to launch

Festival is Friday and Saturday on the grounds of the Nobles County Government Center in downtown Worthington.

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Natalia Vargasa carries the flag of Bhutan during opening ceremonies of the 2014 International Festival in Worthington. The festival, back this year for the 27th time, will host its opening ceremony Friday night on the grounds of -- as usual -- the Nobles County Government Center. (File photo by Brian Korthals)

WORTHINGTON — All systems are “go” for the 27th Worthington International Festival, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, July 9-10.

If the weather cooperates, the canceled COVID year of 2020 will be a dim memory as residents of Worthington and the surrounding area gather at the annual outdoor festival on the grounds of the Nobles County Government Center to eat, enjoy and absorb the benefits of local diversity.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people, ‘Oh, I’m really looking forward to it,’” said Chansouk Duangapai, chair of the International Festival committee.

“We were so bummed we couldn’t have it last year, but because we had gone ahead and planned, even though we weren’t able to have it in 2020, we already had things in place and knew exactly what we needed to do for this year.”

Duangapai and his committee vice-chair, Leann Enninga, believe the International Festival is just the ticket for getting people outside and interacting with each other once again.

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“This is something we need,” said Duangapai. “We encourage people to go, celebrate, meet other people again, talk.”

Added Enninga, “Our whole theme is about emphasizing and honoring those people who have helped us all get through the pandemic.

“Everybody has done their part, and we’re coming back.”

Speaking of tickets, the Worthington International Festival is the rare event for which nobody needs one.

“We [the committee] are really intentional that we want this festival to be accessible — and that means the location, entertainment and activities all come at no monetary cost to attendees,” said Duangapai.

Assured Enninga, “We also make certain this is a family festival, where an entire family can participate without an admission fee.

“That’s the festival’s purpose: for everyone to come together and interact.”

Duangapai, who has been involved as a festival organizer for at least the past four years, fondly remembers it from his youth in Worthington.
“When I was younger I went to the festival and had such a great time,” said Duangapai.

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Now he concerns himself with making sure other local kids will attend and find entertaining things to do, such as make things at the ArtMobile or with Creative Healing Space.

“We have a wide range of different kids’ activities,” said Enninga, mentioning that, in addition to the above organizations, other groups offering activities for the younger set include the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, Head Start, Love INC and Kivu Law.

“All the kids’ activities are free,” stressed Duangapai. “And the Baron of Bubble, from the Twin Cities, will be here for the first time, making bubbles with kids from about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

“We’re also really thankful that the Worthington Police Department will be around to play sports with kids.”

The traditional opening ceremony, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday, features the procession of flags representing all the different countries of the world from which Worthington residents hail — about 80 — as well as the National Anthem, a greeting from Mayor Mike Kuhle that will be interpreted in Spanish, Karen and Amharic, and an original song from Rosine Hermanson Olson.

“We want to celebrate all the diversity we have in the Worthington area and promote who we are as a community,” said Enninga.

Echoed Duangapai, “The International Festival has a long history of building a sense of community among our diverse populations, and I’m proud of that.

“I hope people come and enjoy the festival with us this year, and as long as they have a good time and maybe try to get to know at least one new person, it will be a success.”

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