Culture bash: International Festival celebrates local diversity

WORTHINGTON -- The International Festival is here, and community members are ready to celebrate. Mike Cumiskey is one of the committee members who helped plan this year's entertainment. He believes this year's lineup will be great fun. "I think w...

958489+i festival.jpg
Natalia Vargasa carries the flag of Bhutan during opening ceremonies at last year’s International Festival. File Photo

WORTHINGTON - The International Festival is here, and community members are ready to celebrate.

Mike Cumiskey is one of the committee members who helped plan this year’s entertainment. He believes this year’s lineup will be great fun.
“I think we’ve got a little of everything with the entertainment we have,” Cumiskey said. “... It’ll be just like taking a trip around the world without having to spend any money to get there.”
The event will kick off with a few pre-festival activities, starting today at 6 p.m. near the government center with the Taste of Worthington. Then, students will perform the second showing of the opera “Five Nice Mice” at 7 p.m. at the Center for Active Living.
The opening ceremony will be at 5:30 p.m. Friday, and the entertainment will begin at 6 p.m.
“Our big headliner is Orkestar Bez Ime,” Cumiskey said. “They are a group that I was trying to get last year, but they were all booked up.
“This group plays what most people would call ‘gypsy music.’ … They specialize in Albanian- and Ukrainian-type music. It’s very lively, and I think the crowd is just going to love it.”
Cumiskey said the entertainment committee works hard to bring Minnesota talent to the festival, and this year he and the others accomplished that.
Minneapolis-based group Innocent Reggae Band will make not one, but two appearances at the festival.
“They come very highly acclaimed and are probably the top reggae band in Minneapolis,” Cumiskey said. “It’s very authentic. ... They are actually going to perform two sets - at 2 p.m. and then again at 3:10 p.m.”
Along with reggae music, there will be Karen music, traditional Scandinavian music and Celtic music from the Macalester College Pipe Band at 1 p.m.
“I’m not sure how many members of the band will be coming, but there will be a few,” Cumiksey said. “I’m sure they will be wearing their kilts.”
Children’s activities
Saturday’s events will feature children’s activities starting at 11 a.m. and lasting till 4 p.m. on Fourth Avenue. There will be lots of arts and crafts as well as games.

Jessica Velasco, a committee member who helped plan the children’s activities, said it’s fun to get the kids involved.
“I enjoy seeing the kids,” Velasco said. “They are so carefree.”
Velasco said face painting is always a hit. This year they are adding to the mix with henna - Indian form of temporary body art. However, the group will use puff paint instead of henna.
“I think the face painting opens the kids’ eyes to different cultures,” she said. “I think the henna will also do that. I’m hoping the kids ask questions about why are we doing this or what does it mean.”
From noon till 3 p.m., the Zoo Man will be visiting. He will bring reptiles and will have four 30-minute sessions during which kids can touch the animals and ask questions.
“I know last year he had a snake and a lizard,” Velasco said. “Adults don’t want to touch, but the kids are fascinated.”
Traditional fashion
Vilai Khanya noticed an absence in last year’s festival: the native fashion show.
“The International (Festival) had (the fashion show) two years ago, but then didn’t have it last year,” Khanya said. “I feel that a part of culture, along with food and religion, is the clothing.”
Sixteen countries will be highlighted in this year’s show, including Germany, India, Kenya, El Salvador, Ethiopia and Syria, Khanya said.
She said fashion is a big part of her life, and she enjoys seeing the traditional clothing mixed in with more modern pieces.
“I’m big on fashion, and I like bringing the past to the present and merging the styles,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun seeing the youths and adults that participate enjoy it.”
For more information on the International Festival, go to

What To Read Next
Get Local