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Harrisonburg's 18th Annual International Festival

On Saturday, Sept. 26th, Harrisonburg will celebrate its 18th annual International Festival at Hillandale Park. But for the third year, another event, called the Harrisonburg International CommUNITY Celebration, will surround the festival and combine food, music, film and children’s activities in a two-week-long celebration of Harrisonburg’s vibrant and diverse culture. WMRA’s Kara Lofton reports.

The anchor event of the week, the Harrisonburg International Festival, prides itself, above all, on two things: showcasing the diverse Harrisonburg community and being family friendly.

[Mama Yo Quiero]

That was a children’s song recorded by bilingual artist José-Luis Orozco, one of this year’s featured performers. But while children’s activities are, undoubtedly, an undercurrent of the festival (alcohol is prohibited), there really is something for everyone.

[Island Rock by DubCity Renegades]

If Reggae or Spanish/English children’s music isn’t your style...

BORIS OZUNA: There’s a lot of food, a lot of music, a lot of art, also from local artists.

That was Boris Ozuna, this year’s festival director.

OZUNA: There’s an area of the festival called Global Village where people representing different countries have a stand and they can show any art and clothing from their home country, there is going to be a fashion show showcasing clothing from all over the world, or at least from all the people involved in Global Village. There’s going to be children’s activities and an entire park for people to enjoy and play and have their picnic. 

The festival is free and has come together as [quote] “an effort of the community,” according to Ozuna, who is the only paid festival employee, and part-time at that. He expects around 8,000 people to attend.

Other efforts of the community include James Madison University’s International Week, a One World Exhibit at the Explore More Discovery Museum and five Spanish-language films at the Latino Film Festival at Court Square Theater.

The film festival, perhaps the second largest event behind the International Festival itself, is supported by The Arts Council of the Valley and has been running for more than ten years.

MARK FINK: It was definitely something in the beginning that was kind of seen as a lead up to the International Festival, or at least kind of done around the same time to bring awareness to Latino culture and Latino film.

That’s Mark Fink, the manager of Court Square Theater. This year the Latino Film Festival will actually occur in the week following the International Festival.

FINK: The main thing with the Latino Film Festival, the main goal that we go for, is getting a diverse group of Latino films.

[Sounds from Cuidad Delirio trailer]

Those are sounds from Cuidad Delirio, a Colombian film that weaves love, salsa and unexpected obstacles into what is perhaps the most lighthearted of the five films being shown this year. If suspense is more to your taste, then Marshland, a Spanish film about a serial killer and two homicide detectives attempting to catch him might be a better bet.

[Sounds from Marshland trailer]

The Latino Film Festival will run next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, September 30th to October 2nd.

Perhaps the number one thing attendees will enjoy during the week of festivities is not the films, music or performances, although those should be good too, but the satisfaction of sampling the plethora of international and local cuisine available both downtown and via food vendors at the festival. Because if anything makes commUNITY a reality, it’s food.

[La Hamaca by Bio Ritmo]

Kara Lofton is a photojournalist based in Harrisonburg, VA. She is a 2014 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University and has been published by EMU, Sojourners Magazine, and The Mennonite. Her reporting for WMRA is her radio debut.