International City

Jeremiah Knupp -- September 24th, 2009

International Festival dancers“Educate, Entertain, Eat.”

If that sounds like the way to spend an early autumn afternoon in Harrisonburg, then the annual International Festival is the place you want to be. The mix of international food, music, dance, arts, crafts and community networking will be held this Saturday September 26 from 12 – 6 p.m. in Hillandale Park off of South High Street.

Photographs by Holly Marcus

From its humble beginnings in 1997 the festival has grown to an event that draws over 6,000 people from around the region. The organization’s Web site states as their official mission “to celebrate the diversity of Harrisonburg and the surrounding communities by providing a friendly forum in which cultural groups can showcase their cultural and linguistic values as a means to educate the larger community and to support awareness for their presence and contribution.” It’s just easier to say “Educate, Entertain, Eat.”

International Festival art

Festival regulars know what to expect. It’s an event whose quality and diversity has only increased over the years. For those who have never been, there is international music and dancing on the main stage, interactive and hands-on events for children and a “World Bazaar” of arts and crafts.

“This year we’ve gone back to our roots,” said festival co-coordinator Vaunda Brown. “All of our performers are local. It reflects our pride in our community but also our goal of keeping the event’s footprint small.”

The Green Village is packed with information that ranges from recycling to land preservation initiatives to local produce. In the social networking area get connected with your neighbors with the displays by area social service and volunteer organizations, including an informational booth for hburgnews.

International Festival food

Did I mention admission is free?

It’s enough to make you hungry. And when it does food is available, provided by independent vendors and local restaurants, like Blue Nile, El Sol and A Bowl of Good, preparing their menus fresh and on location.

“Slow down and enjoy it,” Brown recommended for first time visitors. “There are colors, sights, sounds and smells that you’ve never experienced before. Just be open to that. The greatest part about the festival is the general feeling of good will. It’s our chance to demonstrate that Harrisonburg really is the ‘friendly city.’”

HeaddressOn site parking will be limited to those who are handicapped or vehicles with four or more occupants. All other visitors must take a free shuttle from Westover Park or JMU’s Memorial Hall. Those who travel to the park on foot or by bicycle are welcome to use any of the park’s entrances.

Their website gives a detailed entertainment schedule, along with a list of the food vendors who will be present.

For those who would like to volunteer, the festival is still looking for people to help clean-up and take down after the event. If you want to lend a hand, assemble at Shelter 12 after the festival concludes at 6 p.m.

14 Responses to “International City”

  1. Renee says:

    Nice writeup and photos – thanks for the info!

  2. In case you didn’t see it in the story, hburgnews will have a booth set up. Stop by and say hi.

  3. This is the first year that on-site parking will be limited as described?

  4. Emmy says:

    They’ve attempted to limit parking before but it never seems to work. I always park at the Rec Center and ride the bus over.

  5. Thanh says:

    Barkley Rosser, I don’t know when the limited on-site began, but I do remember that they had the same limitations last year. Although last year I think the only “satellite” parking was at Westover Park.

    I am really looking forward to Saturday.

    I’ll be at the Green Village at the “Walk Smart, Bike Smart” display with information about bicycle and pedestrian safety as well as information about the city’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan update and Tuesday’s Public Input Meeting. We’ll also be giving out a limited number of bicycle helmets to kids and adults. Stop by and say hello. :)

  6. Greg says:

    I’m looking forward to it. Last year was my first year there and I was impressed. Too bad it looks like there’s a good chance for rain on Saturday though.

  7. Tina says:

    Due to the wet weather, parking at the International Festival site is going to be very limited. Please plan on using one of our satellite locations – Westover Park or Memorial Hall – and riding the shuttle over. Or plan on parking on one of the side streets near the park and walking in.

    Rain or shine ~ hope to see you there!

  8. Don’t let the rain keep you inside all day. Come out out for an hour and stop by our booth. Can’t promise any big prizes, but it would be nice to meet some readers, regardless of the soggy weather.

  9. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    What happened with the shuttle? We were part of a group of about 40 waiting at Westover until about 12:30 (the earliest person there had arrived about 11:30), and eventually the group just broke up, with some going there by car and some going home.

  10. Greg says:

    I didn’t go because of the rain. Last year we had the same issue with the shuttle. We waited at least 30 minutes with a toddler and a baby and there were no shuttles to be seen. We finally drove there and parked on the street nearby. I heard many other shuttle complaints last year, it’s too bad they didn’t seem to get them corrected for this year either.

  11. Emmy says:

    That’s strange, every year I’ve been (including last year) I’ve had no trouble getting a shuttle to and from the festival at the Rec Center. I’ve never waited more than ten minutes any time. I didn’t go this year admittedly because of the weather, but I’m glad some folks still made it out. We needed the rain badly, but I wish it would have rained during the week.

  12. That’s a bummer about the shuttles. Sounds like they need to work that out for next year’s festival. Even more of a bummer about the terrible weather yesterday, considering today is awesome and sunny. I’m rarely this annoyed by the weather.

  13. Barb says:

    I was there yesterday and took the shuttle. I lucked out coming and going, but it was a very long walk in pouring rain. Even with an umbrella I was soaked by the time I got to the pick-up spot. Too bad it can’t be held at the Fairgrounds. Plenty of parking, space, and buildings if it rains. In nice weather the event is wonderful, but yesterday…no. I arrived at 11 to help at a booth, and left by 2pm. It was raining too hard to even go to a food booth.

  14. Vaunda Brown says:

    The International Festival thanks our many loyal fans that braved the rain and attended our event. This is our first year out of 12 that we have been dealt such a blow with the weather and we have learned much. For those of you that may not know our festival is all volunteer event and we pay for expenses with sponsorships from both businesses and churches. Having the festival at Hillandale presents many challenges but also provides the perfect place to gather and celebrate our cultural diversity. We have had shuttles running for at least the last 4 years (maybe 5) as a way so serve more residents and care for the park. Because we have to contract with outside companies that aspect is one of the most challenging one we face. Sadly, government regulations require us to put our bid out to any company in Virginia and if anyone decides to bid we cannot use our local Harrisonburg City Transportation buses. Last year we were going to have to pay over $3,000 dollars for two shuttle buses that would have came from Richmond. When we told them that we did not have the funds needed and would not be able to have service they agree to waive the bid and we were able to use the local system. This year we decided to use a local independent company that would save the festival over $500. We do not know why the shuttles were delayed but will do our best to find out and correct this issue for future events. The International Festival runs a tight ship when it comes to budgets and spending and we desire to be good stewards of our resources while providing an event that all residents are able and welcome to attend. If you have any ideals or would like to join our planning committee please contact us via our web site. Once again, thanks for attending and/or participating and here to hoping next year we will have weather like today (Sunday).

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