The festivities include a sampling from many different aspects of the more than 30 cultures that participate in the event. Visi-tors can taste and smell the flavor of other lands in the foods that are available; hear the rhythms and songs of different nations in the music and dances; and see the colors and heritage of the world displayed in the costumes and dances that are part of the majesty of the International Folk Festival.
“Friday, September 26 is the kick-off,” said Mary Kinney, mar-keting director of the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County Mary Kinney. “There will be cultural performances all through downtown.”
The Downtown Alliance has “4th Friday International Pass-ports” available. Stop by the Downtown Alliance office or the Arts Council and get one. Then visit stores, galleries and res-taurants to collect stamps for the passport and register to win a grand prize.
On Saturday, the Parade of Nations kicks things off at 10:30 a.m. More than 1,000 participants have signed up to participate. Come and enjoy the pageantry and customs of the different nationalities in the community. Each nationality in the parade will carry their nation’s flag. There will be dancers wearing native costumes, music and good cheer. The Army Ground Forces Band is set to lead the parade and perform on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
“In an effort to make the parade information more accessible, the Arts Council will provide an interpreter on the stage at the corner of Hay Street and Ray Avenue to interpret the parade announcements through sign language for those with hearing chal-lenges,” said Kinney.
Festival Park opens at noon and closes at 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 27-28. That is plenty of time to get out and sample the delicious fare and enjoy the many entertainment stages, arts and crafts, vendors and other activities scheduled throughout the weekend.
“We are excited to partner with Fayetteville State Univer-sity this year to bring Malaysian singer/songwriter Yuna to the main stage on Saturday,” said Kinney.
Yuna blends contemporary pop, acoustic folk and R&B. She is recognized internationally as a talented performer and is gaining popularity in the United States. The concert starts at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday. Prior to the Yuna concert, the Army Ground Forces Band will perform. Hawaiian dancers, Aloha Kanaka Ohula Halau and Russian performers Moscow Nights are also set to grace the Main Stage on Saturday.
On Sunday, The Army Ground Forces Band returns. Belly dancers from Shadows of Fire will perform, too. Check out the Miami-based Spam Allstars at 2:45 p.m. and 5 p.m. This group was so popular when they visited in 2011 that the Arts Council teamed up with South Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts to bring them back to Fayetteville. “The artists are widely known for their use of improvisational electronic elements and turntables with Latin, funk, hip hop and dub to create what they call an ‘electronic descarga,’” said Kinney.
Not only is this group entertaining, they are sticking around to offer work-shops on Monday. The workshops are for the visually impaired participants of the Vision Resource Center.
While these main-stage events are sure to be a blast, there is plenty to see and do all over Festival Park throughout the weekend. Linear Park will host members of the Lumbee Tribe’s Native American Cultural Showcase. Here, visitors can learn the elements of pow-wow.
Saturday, on the International Stage, Carolina Klezmer will perform. Their musical repertoire includes music that is a mix of Russian, Czech, Polish, Turkish, Middle Eastern, German, Greek, French, Spanish, Italian and music of the Americas. Also on the International stage, the Belfast Boys will perform a traditional Irish set of jigs, reels, polkas and songs.
Look for cultural performances by local community members and groups on the International stage throughout the day on Sunday.The Children’s Area Stage has some real treats lined up for the weekend. Performers include Sean Gaskell, The Healing Force, Mountain Marionettes and Criss Cross Mangosauce. What makes these performers even more fun is the extras before and after the shows.
“We have three artists performing on kids stage,” said Kinney. “They are also doing interactive workshops when they are not on stage. Shawn Gaskill and The Healing Force are going to have interactive workshops throughout the week-end. He plays traditional music of Africa and the songs tell the stories of war and hardship as well as accomplishments and joy. Some of the songs are 800 years old. I think that is going to be fun for kids and adults alike.”
Last year, the Kindness Corner in the Children’s Area was a big hit. This year the activities are just as fun and kind-hearted. “There will be several maps where people can indicate where they have lived or visited and what they love about that destination. Then there will be an art project where people can paint on a small canvas to make art that will be abandoned in the park. You make something and leave it for someone else to find and then it is theirs to keep. There will be a tag on the abandoned art that explains what it is. These pieces of art will be in the park for people to find and keep.”
The International Folk Festival is an event that the community looks forward to all year long. It’s a chance to celebrate the community and its diversity. “We are excited about getting people to bring their friends and neighbors,” said Kinney. “We want everyone to experience the entire world this weekend — we expect to see 100,000 people or more at Festival Park.”
Find out more about the 36th Annual International Folk Festival at www.theartscouncil.com.