World Parade, festival at Freedom Park

Charlotte’s annual World Parade and Festival will kick off at a bigger location Saturday because of an increased number of participating countries.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Freedom Park, at 1900 East Blvd., and will feature representatives from about 50 countries. Among the new countries involved: Chile, Argentina, Bangladesh, Guatemala, Ukraine and the region of Palestine.

Festival events are designed to explore cultures and showcase traditions of the nationalities represented in Charlotte’s growing immigrant population. This includes demonstrations of folklore, heritage and history, and exotic foods from places such as Herzegovina, Lebanon, Poland and Turkey.

Charlotte has its share of annual ethnic festivals, but the closest it comes to bringing all those cultures together is an annual event at UNC Charlotte. The World Parade and Festival aims to broaden the opportunities for Charlotteans to experience foreign cultures.

Organizer Ximena Uribe said the beauty of the event is that countries in conflict with each other around the world are volunteering side-by-side here in Charlotte to show their national pride.

Uribe noted the move this year from Independence Park was due to lack of space at last year’s event, which drew about 8,000 people. That’s 1,000 more than expected, she said. Attendance this year is expected to be 9,000, she said.

“These people are proud to be American citizens and proud to live here, but they are also proud of their own countries and they like to show off those cultures,” Uribe said. “It’s a matter of pride, and we all learn something in the process.”