11aThe region's longest-running multicultural event is back after a two-year hiatus to bring people together to celebrate cultural diversity. The Arts Council of Fayetteville & Cumberland County invites everyone to gather as one community for its 44th Annual International Folk Festival.

The anticipated three-day event will take place from Friday, Sept. 23 to Sunday, Sept. 25 at Festival Park and historic downtown Fayetteville.
The International Folk Festival will act as a grand stage to display the heritage of over 30 cultural groups as they share their art and cuisine.
Historically, the event has drawn thousands of attendees due to its impressive offering of cultural festivities, unique performances and a wide selection of culinary discoveries.
In a world where headlines often highlight divisive attitudes and agendas, the International Folk Festival creates an opportunity for unity and appreciation amongst those eager to celebrate the remarkable differences that exist between cultures and people.

“Our festival has always brought the community together to interact with different cultures and celebrate what makes us unique,” said Bob Pinson, interim president and CEO of the Arts Council. “Our festival reminds us that we are stronger together and will accomplish more than we will ever do as individuals.”

The festival kicks off on Friday, Sept. 23 as part of downtown Fayetteville's long-standing Fourth Friday tradition.
Saturday, Sept. 24 will introduce the Parade of Nations, regarded as one of the more fascinating aspects of the International Folk Festival. From 9 a.m. until noon, representatives from over 30 nations will proudly don traditional clothing and wave their nation's flags to thousands of onlookers. Colorful displays and traditional dances offer guests a one-of-a-kind travel opportunity without even having to purchase a ticket.

After the parade and on Sunday, Sept. 25, a literal world of possibilities awaits attendees as they travel from country to country, sampling a little of each through the art of their culture. Let's Tour the World Together will be from 12 to 7 p.m. Guests can enjoy the perks of a festival done right as they peruse a generous bounty of food and entertainment options available throughout the day.

This year will feature around 30 food vendors, 20 of them international. Offering everything from Thai Tea to Deep Fried Oreos, the festival will deliver on its promise to have a little something for everyone. Haiti and Azerbaijan are new to the culinary stage this year and will be sharing their nation's cuisine at the International Folk Festival for the first time this year.

As guests enjoy food from all over the world, they'll also be able to witness spectacular displays of culture through live entertainment and performance art. From the festival's many stages, attendees can take in the steel drums and exotic headdresses of the North Carolina Brazilian Arts Project, get carried away by the beat of Africa Unplugged and experience many other amazing performances from all around the globe.

An extremely family-friendly event, the International Folk Festival's “World Of Wonder” will be a creative space to foster Cumberland County's young atists. Fun activities and crafts that facilitate cultural education make this an ideal event for homeschool families or parents looking for something fun to do with the kids over the weekend.

Up & Coming Weekly spoke with local homeschool mom Cari Piatt about her thoughts on the festival and its value to the community.

“As a homeschool parent, I'm excited to introduce my kids to new cultures and experiences,” Piatt shared. “It's incredibly beneficial to our curriculum and our family life. We live in a diverse community— it's important for my kids to learn cultures and ways of life that are different from our own.”

Staying true to its commitment to enriching Cumberland County residents' lives, the festival will also include several opportunities for attendees to experience, create or observe art as it's created.
The festival's Arts Market will feature over 30 arts and crafts vendors with booths of handmade creations and other wares for purchase throughout the festival. Art installations and life-size murals will also be displayed to create a truly immersive experience. As a thoughtful and interesting touch, chalk artists, bleach artists, and other live art performers will be on site to show guests art in real time.

The International Folk Festival not only serves as a place for people to meet and engage with cultures from all over the world, but it also makes good on the Arts Council's promise to "support individual creativity, cultural preservation, economic development and lifelong learning through the ARTS.”
Founded nearly 50 years ago, the Arts Council serves the citizens of Cumberland County by working with various cultural organizations to shine a light on artists and arts education in support of downtown Fayetteville's thriving arts and entertainment district.

The Arts Council's subsidiary, We Are the Arts, works to create spaces that allow the community to interact with an impressive roster of artists in and around Fayetteville. In addition to events like the International Folk Festival, We Are the Arts houses exhibits for public viewing, commissions public art displays to bring character to the city and hosts events like the upcoming BlackLit Book Fair.
It is important work and a vital service to the community.

The soul of a community or that of a nation — what it's been through, what it values, and what it aspires to be is often in the art it produces. The desire to create music, dance and the symbolic representation of its story, is an urge shared by every society on earth. Thomas Kinkade, famed 20th century “Painter of Light,” once said: “Art transcends all cultural boundaries.”

Events like the International Folk Festival suggest that he's absolutely right.
For more information regarding the festival, visit www.wearethearts.com.

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