Jeremiah Knupp -- September 24th, 2009
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.
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.”
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.
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.’”
On 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.