Fayetteville, much like the United States, is a melting pot. The city’s population is drawn from all 50 states and countries from all over the world. This diversity brings a rich fabric to the life of our community. It creates a tapestry of customs, ideas and cultures. It intoduces us to new ways of doing things, new music, new food, new ideas. Unlike other communities that struggle with diversity, Cumberland County embraces it, even more, it celebrates it.
For 33 years, the county residents have come together to experience the cornucopia of cultures that make up their community, and it’s one party you are not going to want to miss.
The 33rd Annual International Folk Fesival kicks-off on Friday, Sept. 23 during the monthly celebration of 4th Friday. While 4th Friday is always a visual delight, this month’s activities will be beyond belief. Join the crowds along Hay Street as our neighbors and friends bring the Parade of Nations to the heart of the city at 7 p.m.
The parade is a time-honored tradition in Fayetteville, and is one of the big draws of the weekend. Groups representing more than 30 countries will march through the city center in costume with banners, music and dancing. The spirit of the parade embodies a quote from a Trinidad poet that is often associated with the International Folk Festival — “When we dance in the streets, we dance together, regardless of color, race, status, enjoying ourselves and sharing a love for great music, food and fun!”
Mary Kinney, the marketing director at the Arts Council is excited about bringing the Parade of Nations to 4th Friday.
“This is a really big change for us,” said Kinney. “In the past, the Parade of Nations has been on Saturday morning and kicked-off the event. By integrating it with 4th Friday, we are really building the excitement.”
“There is so much pageantry and color to the parade,” she said. “It’s very high energy, and people look forward to it every year.”
This year, the Army Ground Forces Band will lead the parade. The band made the move to Fayetteville as part of BRAC and is quickly integrating itself into the community. The band is very large but is divided into smaller elements. Kinney said the Dixie Land band will play during the festival on Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday, the festival goes into high gear as activities move to Festival Park. The festival opens at noon, with six full hours of music, dance, art, food and fun.
According to Kinney, there are four performance stages and there will also be strolling artists throughout both days of the festival. All eyes will be on the International Stage as performers from the cultural groups will take the stage to share their culture through music and dance.
New this year to the festival is an expanded area for children. Kinney explained that all of the artists performing on the children’s stage are from the artists in the school program.
“Adjacent to the performance stage is a tent for the children to do hands-on, interactive art projects,” said Kinney. “The artists will rotate from the stage to the tent, so there will be several educational components going on simultaneously.”
Another new event is an area that is dedicated to Native-American crafts. This component is supported by the Cumberland County Schools’ Native American Program. This activity will complement the Native American Cultural Showcase in Linear Park that focuses on the element of pow Wow.
Once you’ve taken in the sights and sounds, you might want to get a taste of the festival at the International Café. The café is a unique way for the community’s cultural groups to showcase their cuisine, but also raise money. So come hungry and prepare for a smorgasbord for your taste buds.
You will probably have worked up a thirst along with your appetite, so you can stop by the beer tent, which is featuring North Carolina brews.
And don’t forget that the festival is a great place to shop. Vendors will display arts and crafts with an international ﬂair.
“The festival itself is free,” said Kinney. “But you are going to want to bring money to eat the delicious food and to shop.”
The festival runs from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit www.theartscouncil.com.