Countries around the world will showcase their cultures in Columbus this weekend.
Columbus International Festival, an annual celebration of cultural diversity seeks to rally support from across Central Ohio in appreciation for cultures particularly within the Middle East.
The 61st annual festival is set to take place on Saturday and Sunday at the Ohio Expo Center.
Started in 1955 by the Columbus mayor and local business owners, the international festival sought to fill a gap when few festivals existed, said festival chair Dr. J.S. Jindal.
“The purpose was to provide people a place to connect and appreciate international culture, dress and language,” Jindal said. “We want people to accept each other, openness is the goal of the festival.”
The festival will host food and cooking demonstrations with a focus on nations including India, Pakistan, Iraq and Turkey. Guests can expect performances from Middle Eastern belly dancers and fashion displays from at least 34 cultures spanning the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa.
“I want people to take away more knowledge about culture,” Jindal said. “Too often people fear the unknown. They see someone not like them, and they close themselves. If you open yourself, the other person becomes more open, too.”
Committee Member Emily Breder said she encourages students and community members to attend the festival to witness a naturalization citizenship oath ceremony.
“When I grew up, there were few immigrants,” Breder said. “If you went to a different country, you would only see that country’s people. That’s not the case anymore. You could be walking down the streets of New York or, just as easily, be walking down the streets of Dublin (Ireland). You’ll see different cultures and people intermingling.”
In an effort to promote student attendance, Jindal is offering a buy one get one free discount with the attached coupon.
“It’s important for college students and young people to get involved. We may not all speak the same language or act the same. But we all have the same emotions. We all feel the same,” he said.
The Columbus International Festival is set to take place at the Ohio Expo Center at 717 E. 17th Ave. on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students.