By Connie Shaver, Festival of Nations
Festival of Nations, Minnesota’s largest multi-cultural celebration, returns to Saint Paul RiverCentre Thursday, May 2through Sunday, May 5. Thousands of students from around the region attend on Thursday and Friday, the public is invited Friday afternoon through Sunday. Enjoy delicious food from around the world served at 37 ethnic cafés – everything from Swiss chocolate fondue to Colombian tamales to Tibetan momo and Norwegian lefse. International Bazaar booths representing 55 countries offer shopping from around the globe with imported gifts including clothing, jewelry, artifacts and toys. Check the program for the wide selection of live music and over 75 adult and children’s dance performances on three RiverCentre stages.
The festival brings together people from a vast array of backgrounds to celebrate their ethnic heritage, learn about other cultures and enjoy great food. Through exhibits, food, music, dance, and personal connections, Festival of Nations provides a look into the traditions, history and journey of over 90 ethnic groups, and sheds light on how each one contributes to the American cultural landscape.
New this year, Festival of Nations presents Think Global, Party Local on Friday night with extended hours, international wine tasting, beers from around the world and a lineup of fresh music from international artists. At 8:30 p.m., the Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars (listen») make a rare Twin Cities visit as part of their international tour. Also on Friday night, the highly popular, Twin Cities-based salsa group Salsa del Soul will get people on the dance floor at 7:30 p.m., and Rahim Alhaj (listen»), master of the Iraqi oud (a pear-shaped string instrument widely considered an ancestor of the guitar), returns by special request with performances at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Top the night off with some great international food and drink for a party that travels the world in one night. Friday’s festivities and are included with paid admission to Festival of Nations.
- Entertainment. A wide selection of live music and over 75 adult and children’s dance performances featuring brilliant costumes and choreography are part of the continuous entertainment all weekend long. New this year, a kickoff on Friday night with the Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars on the Roy Wilkins stage plus Rahim Alhaj, an Iraqi oud player, and the popular Twin Cities-based salsa dance troupe, Salsa del Soul will be performing in the Atrium.
- Cultural exhibits. Community members will showcase their distinctive cultures through 60 special exhibits. Festival visitors can pick up a Festival of Nations Passport to be stamped at each stop. Look for new displays from the Congolese, Sudanese, and Haitians.
- Ethnic cafes. Enjoy fare served around the world at 37 ethnic food cafés. Proceeds from each café benefit a local non-profit organization.
- Ethnic demonstrations. Community members will showcase their distinctive cultures through interactive exhibits. This is a fun and interactive activity for the whole family! Many folk artisans practicing crafts passed down through generations and interactive, educational demonstrations will be featured in over 60 different booths.
- International bazaar. Shopping from around the globe with booths representing 55 countries, with imported gifts including clothing, jewelry and artifacts from many cultures.
- The wine & beer tasting experience. This popular tradition continues to grow as International Wine Tasting returns for its sixth year. Patrons can sample wines from Portugal, Italy, Chile, Austria and the United States and visit with Festival of Nations wine experts. New this year, enjoy a variety of international beers as well.
The International Institute of Minnesota welcomes new Americans to the Twin Cities and offers them a continuum of services to promote their full integration into our community. The Institute’s programing includes job training and language classes as well as refugee resettlement, immigration, citizenship, and anti-human trafficking services. IIMN is guided by the knowledge that a strong start to a new life enhances the ability of new Americans and their children to contribute fully as members of our community. For more information, visit here.