International Festival highlights diversity of cultures in Northwest Arkansas

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 7,891 views 

Smells ranging from Indian curry to Greek-spiced chicken tickled noses at the 15th annual Northwest Arkansas International Festival on Saturday (June 6).

The free event, hosted for the first time by the NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC), showcased the diversity of cultures and countries in Northwest Arkansas with music, dance performances, crafts, cooking demonstrations, cultural exhibits and food vendors.

“We want to help people learn about each other and learn about our world and the people in it,” said Kathryn Birkhead, director for diversity and inclusion at NWACC. “We hope, along with that learning, will come an appreciation.”

Countries represented during the day included India, Mexico, China, the Marshall Islands, Cameroon, Laos, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Colombia and Thailand.

Cooking demonstrations were an addition to the event this year since they could easily be held in the Tyson kitchen of the Shewmaker center at NWACC, Birkhead said. Levi’s Gastro Lounge made Guatemalan “lumpia” and Chef Michael Kuefner of the NWACC Culinary Arts School prepared the Indian dish, “gobi.”

Cultural perfomances, on a stage in front of the Shewmaker Center, were scheduled continuously during the four-hour event. Guests could watch entertainment such as a typical Laotian dance, a Chinese folk dance, the Cameroon National Anthem, break dancing, mariachis, belly dancing and an Indian singer.

“We are really happy to have the opportunity to represent Chinese culture and introduce Chinese culture to the community here,” said Jackie Guan, one of the Chinese American Association dancers.

Attendees could also visit 28 booths, which included a live demonstration of Turkish rug weaving, henna painting, and handwork by Marshallese immigrants.

Taziki’s, Sno Ballz, Johnny Carino’s, Egrito Thai Cuisine and RR Curry Express sold food at the festival.

Dr. Evelyn Jorgenson, president of NWACC, opened the event by expressing her pleasure at having the college host and thanked everyone for coming. Sponsors of the event included Mariachi Amistad, Ozark Natural Foods, Ozark Mountain Poultry, America’s Car Mart, Sno Ballz, Sam’s Club, Arvest, Univision, Mi Fiesta Rentals, Tyson, First Bank and the Metroplex.

Event organizers expected 3,000 people to attend.

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