28th International Festival starts Thursday in Worthington
The outdoor portion of the festival returns to the Nobles County Government Center lawn in downtown Worthington on Friday.
WORTHINGTON — Worthington’s 28th International Festival kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 7, with a special immigrant conversations program at Memorial Auditorium.
The new venue for the Thursday evening program allows for the showing of “Five Years North,” a movie that shares the coming-of-age story of Luis, a Guatemalan boy who arrived alone in New York City and struggles to work, study and evade the ICE officer patrolling his neighborhood.
The film will be followed by a panel presentation and dialogue organized by Jesse Nitzschke and Tammy Makram. Preceding the film, attendees will be able to purchase ethnic food samples in the auditorium lobby.
The outdoor portion of the festival returns to the Nobles County Government Center lawn in downtown Worthington on Friday, with the opening ceremony to begin at 5:30 p.m. Attendees will be treated to a parade of flags and the National Anthem, as well as several musical performances. One of the highlights of the evening will be the native fashion show.
“I’m looking forward to the fashion show on Friday night,” said Leann Zins Enninga, International Festival committee member. “We have a person from Mexico who is here visiting and she does (fashion shows) on a regular, professional basis. I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with for the fashion show.”
Each year, the festival committee works to bring in new cultural performers and ensure a variety of ethnic food vendors are set up along Third Avenue, between Ninth and 10th streets.
“We always have a little bit different in terms of the food that’s available, and we also have some of the great standbys because they’re local,” Enninga said. “We want to emphasize that we have people in our community and we’re bringing them all together.”
The performers, too, include a mix of local people and groups brought in from outside the community.
“We are excited to have Genet Abate — she is quite a singer,” Enninga said. “She’s bringing some dancers and some other musicians. I’m really excited to see what she can do.”
Genet Abate will perform selections from several tribal communities of eastern Africa.
Among the local performers is Gabriel Fueston, who works as a legal assistant at Kivu Immigration Law in downtown Worthington.
“He’s going to do some rock ’n roll with a Latino twist,” said Enninga. “He was born and raised here, but lived in Ecuador for 10 years.
“We also have a Mariachi group from St. Mary’s, and that’s going to be fun.”
For a full list of the cultural artists performing Friday and Saturday, see the schedule of events .
“The goal with our cultural artists is to always have a variety of different cultures represented,” Enninga shared. “We can’t do Filipino music or Ecuadorian music every year. There will be some Latino, African, Asian and European, making sure we hit all of those areas in some way or another.”
Throughout the festival, visitors will get to learn about and interact with other cultures through the ethnic educational booths open on the festival grounds. In addition, there will be a variety of activities for children.
“One of the things that is so important about the festival is it is family-centered,” Enninga said. “We intentionally set out to provide things for young children and adolescents to do.”
The Nobles County Integration Collaborative is sponsoring some activities on Friday night, and the Artmobile and Creative Healing Space will also offer programming for kids and adults to participate in.
While Enninga has been involved with the International Festival for years, there is a mix of people who volunteer and help plan the festival from year to year. Enninga said they are in need of more people to help.
“We are in dire need of people to give some new ideas,” she said. Those interested in volunteering can sign up on the worthingtoninternationalfestival.org website, or visit Worthington International Festival on Facebook.
The festival has grown tremendously from what it was 28 years ago, when the first festival was essentially a potluck meal between new and former immigrant families in the community.
“We had some wonderful foremothers and forefathers who had the foresight to see that we needed to get to know our new neighbors a bit better,” Enninga said. “I am so grateful for those early people … who got this started. We built on it over the years and I think it’s really neat to see.
“I think they would be proud of how it has evolved and changed and become a premier event that not only Worthington, but the entire region may be proud of,” she added.