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International Festival Celebrates, and Reflects, World

On Saturday (Sept. 27), more than 40 cultures and countries and at least 53 languages will come together at a park in Harrisonburg.

For the 17th year, it’s Harrisonburg's International Festival.  WMRA’s Scott Lowe reports.

SCOTT LOWE:  Festival goers can enjoy at least 10 music and dancing acts on two stages highlighted by singer songwriter and educator Jose Luis Orozco performing with Harrisonburg children and also with The Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir.

Among the performers?  A group of eight Philippine community cultural dancers, who were busy recently putting the finishing touches on their performance at a rehearsal in an Elkton backyard.

MARITES CORTES:  We do this dancing and we have fashion shows, international fashion show where you can see these ladies in their own attire from different countries. There will be a lot of vendors ...food vendors...you can taste the different kind of food.  I can eat almost everything --  I don’t have a problem with it!

That’s Marites Cortes looking forward to tomorrow’s festivities, as is Dance Leader Gina Roy.

GINA ROY:  It’s very colorful, yes, and there’s a lot of things to buy, and a lot of food to taste (laughter).

Local artist Dave Kreider is one of the planners of the festival, and that comes naturally.  He grew up in Israel and the Middle East, married his wife who is from the Gaza Strip, and he spent a couple of years learning at the Center for Justice and Peace Building at Eastern Mennonite University.

DAVE KREIDER:   This has become a wonderful community organizing event that brings together    businesses and agencies in our community that are relating to these cultural groups…  People and institutions of learning that have to do with working with the children from these communities... People who are interested in peace and justice.   We have a green village there that brings together people working with environmental justice issues and sustainability.  It’s a beautiful way of bridging and bringing together people across lines of culture and diversity and celebrating that and even when people have come from across lines of conflict it’s a way to rebuild a sense of community and connection.

The festival blends world cultures, but when those cultures collide, the reality of world conflict is acknowledged as well. Traditionally, the festival ends with the Kurdish Dance of Joy, but this year, that won't happen… as Kurdish immigrant from Northern Iraq Muhammad Kareem explains…

MUHAMMAD KAREEM:  In one day, only about 3000 people has been died [sic], so that’s why we are not happy very much, we will try to pray for our people in northern Iraq and Kurdistan and our heart is with them now they are fighting the terrorist attack from ISIS, and that’s why we don't participate in Kurdish dancing this year.

DAVE KREIDER:  There's a quote by Gary Haugen, who says “we cannot long endure history’s arc of justice without life-giving stores of beauty, laughter, love and light, without delicious sojourns in nature and friends who make us flush and ache with laughter.”  To me that captures the spirit of the festival and I look forward to every year because of that.

Last year’s festival drew almost 9000 visitors, and with annual growth of 15-18% , it's possible that this year’s attendance will eclipse the 10,000 mark. So anyone with fewer than four occupants in a vehicle will have to be shuttled into Hillandale Park.

Originally from Blacksburg and Roanoke, Scott has been a broadcaster for more than three decades. Starting in 1985 as a DJ at WSLQ/WSLC, and moving to the valley in 1989, his broadcasting career progressed through a variety of air personality positions including program director, morning show host, and play-by-play sports announcer. Scott joined WMRA as Sunday Morning Announcer in 2008. In the summer of 2015, Scott's service to our listening community expanded as he took on the role of Membership and Volunteer Services Manager. Got questions regarding your membership? Ask Scott!