When Charlotte held its first World Parade and International Festival last year, organizers were hoping to draw at least 1,000 people.
Instead, they got about 7,000, so many that a few of the vendors ran out of food.
Festival creator Ximena Uribe says she’ll be better prepared this weekend, when the event will be staged yet again at Charlotte’s Independence Park.
The bigger, better festival will have double the number of countries (45) involved, including many that will have booths displaying examples of their native food, fashion, arts and crafts, and folklore.
“I think it was so successful last year because communication has brought the world closer to us. People are more curious about other countries,” said Uribe, a native of Colombia who moved to the United States 28 years ago.
“And we have this big international community here in Charlotte that is proud of their native country and wants to express it.”
Uribe says the festival is designed to foster a deeper appreciation of the many ethnic groups, cultures and perspectives in the community.
Among the supporters of the festival is Tom Hanchett of the Levine Museum of the New South. He says Charlotte has its share of ethnic festivals, but the closest it comes to bringing all those cultures together is an annual event at UNC Charlotte.
“There’s something magical about Charlotte’s oldest public park filling up with new southerners from around the world,” says Hanchett. “The colorful cultural booths, the food and the music really opened my eyes to this world city that Charlotte is becoming.”
Among the countries represented will be Turkey, Indonesia, France, Togo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Germans will be there, too, with free samples of food more easily tasted than pronounced: cremiger honig (creamed honey), Zitronenkuchen (lemon cake) and franzbroetchen (a sweet cinnamon flavored Northern German pastry).
Antje “Anna” Bruegmann, president of German Alemannia Society of Charlotte, noted there’s so much German heritage in the Charlotte area, the festival is a means for people to connect with their family’s past.
“Last year, it brought people to us who became part of our group,” she says, referring to the 350 member Alemannia Society. “This is a great way for us to connect with a bigger part of the community.”
Uribe says that’s what she was hoping for that when she first pitched the idea. She moved to Charlotte nearly five years ago from Weston, Fla., where she was among the organizers of a similar international festival.
“When I came here, I saw the diversity of people in uptown, and I saw we have a lot of ethnic groups that have festivals. It motivated me to find a way to bring them all together,” she says.
“I have a passion for all things international, because even something as simple as a conversation will teach you things about other cultures. That’s why something like this is important.”
Some of the proceeds from Saturday’s event will go launch The Charlotte International Culture Center, she says.
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