While WorldFest certainly qualifies as a bold, colorful event designed for a holiday weekend, it comes with some important subtext to go along with the food and live music.
The festival’s primary purpose is to highlight the many cultures found in Louisville, and that’s a direct result of the city’s changing cultural landscape, said Phil Miller, Louisville’s deputy director of communications. The festival is organized in part by the Office for Globalization, which was created last year by Mayor Greg Fischer.
“A significant part of our city’s growth has come from international population, and it’s a very high percentage of the overall population growth,” Miller said.
“Mayor Fischer has been very focused on the importance of growing Louisville as an international city. He really believes that cities that embrace diversity and international cultures and have a more global view are going to be the ones that thrive.”
You’re forgiven, however, if you skip thinking about big-picture politics and just enjoy three days of WorldFest.
The free festival runs today through Sunday on the Belvedere in downtown Louisville from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. More than 22 countries will be represented through music, food and activities. More than 35 bands and more than 30 food vendors will be joined by dancers, educators, puppets and sword fighters.
Because this is WorldFest’s 10th anniversary, Miller said that several new features were created to celebrate the milestone.
The biggest is the Global Village, where people from a number of countries will re-create aspects of their cultures as a learning experience. The World of Discovery will be focused on children, who will receive a WorldFest Passport that can be stamped as they “visit” different countries. Crane House is overseeing the Louisville Third Century Hospitality Tent, which will focus on Asian culture, including Japanese bamboo sword-fighting and tai chi.
“With the WorldFest Passport, as kids go visit one nation to another they get stamped along the way after completing either crafts or face painting or other activities, so it’s kind of a progressive global experience for kids,” Miller said. “There’s always an effort to try and provide activities for children, so that families can feel like it’s a good event.”
Adults will have plenty to do, however. Bands will perform on three stages, with headliners including Delhi 2 Dublin at 9:15 p.m. today, Funkadesi at 9:30 p.m. Saturday and Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul wrapping things up at 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
The music represents a wide range of cultures, from the typical (reggae, Caribbean, world beat, Latin, Irish) to the offbeat (Vietnamese, Peruvian, Native American, Spanish rock ’n’ roll). There’s even some traditional American jazz and funk.
A couple of events return, and one cuts to the heart of the festival.
Saturday’s Parade of Cultures begins at noon on Sixth Street near Metro Hall, and promises to be an explosion of color and sound. Most importantly, today’s naturalization ceremony held at 1:30 p.m. in the Kentucky Center’s Bomhard Theater will welcome nearly 300 immigrants as freshly minted United States citizens.
“That’s synchronized every year with the festival, and it’s an amazing thing to see people becoming U.S. citizens,” Miller said.
Reporter Jeffrey Lee Puckett can be reached at (502) 582-4160.