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International Festival assembles global cultures

HUNTSVILLE – Dozens of nations demonstrated their cultural heritage at the eighth annual International Festival of North Alabama or iFest, presented by International Society of Huntsville, University of Alabama in Huntsville and community volunteers.

UAH hosted the event on Sept. 16 with staging grounds set up at basketball courts, parking areas and other sites around University Fitness Center, 500 John Wright Drive on campus. “It was a one-day, family-friendly spectacular, open to the public with no admission charge,” publicist Jim Zielenski said.

The Parade of Nations during the ribbon cutting previewed a first glimpse of the Tennessee Valley’s global representation. For 2017, the iFest Spotlight Country was Nigeria with their showcase among transnational table displays.

Two new countries at iFest for 2017 were are Kyrgyzstan and Singapore.

Featured performers included the Zingaresca Duo, specializing in music of Romany (Gypsy) from the Russian and Eastern European cultures. “Also new was the Celtic group, Black Market Haggis. Returning iFest favorites included the Fitness Arts Center Irish Dancers, Ty Gracey and the UAH Jazz Combo,” Zielenski said.

The iFest Children’s Area, “Xenomania: Global Games,” offered several free interactive, educational and fun games. Children could enjoy paper dragons from China, cross-stitched Martisor dolls from Moldova, kangaroo paper craft from Australia and floor folk art from India.

A world smorgasbord of dining choices ranged from Neon Lilly Cafe on Wheels, Eastern European; Pearl Asian Cuisine; Chillz on Wheelz ice cream; Joe’s World Famous Pizza; and The Food Truck.

“iFest’s popular International Open Air Market featured vendors displaying international or internationally-inspired merchandise,” Zielenski said. Alexander’s Martial Arts, House of Kabob and 1st Sergeant Salsa participated, along with food vendors with North Alabama Korean Association, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Piper & Leaf and Smallcakes.

“Multiple campus organizations support iFest, but this international extravaganza’s source of power comes from volunteers within the Tennessee Valley community, particularly organizations with ‘intercontinental influence,'” Zielenski said. “Each year is bigger and better than the last.”

International Society of Huntsville, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, promotes the international community in North Alabama through cultural, educational and social programming.

For more information, visit internationalsocietyofhuntsville.org.

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