Hundreds waved their miniature U.S. flags at the Kentucky Center for the Arts on Friday as they watched their friends and relatives become U.S. citizens at the naturalization ceremony, which launched Louisville’s eighth annual WorldFest Friday and Saturday at the Belvedere.
Participating in this moving ceremony were 371 immigrants from 70 different countries. They served as a visual reminder of people’s ability to stand united in the face of cultural differences. They all had the same goal: to makie their stay in the U.S. permanent and official, something that would require at least three years of dedication. Many of those taking part in the ceremony even dressed in traditional cultural garb, paying homage to their native lands and America, their new home.
The wide range of nationalities represented in the ceremony foreshadowed the many nationalities that were to be represented at WorldFest. At noon on Saturday was the Parade of Cultures led by Mayor Jerry Abramson where Louisville’s vast cultural diversity was put on display as people donned native dress in an effort to share their cultures with others.
There wasn’t a dull moment in the festival with three bustling stages flaunting live music and dance from around the world. Funkadesi, a musical group from Chicago, headlined the festival. Fusing Indian ragas with reggae, it was a metaphor in itself for cultural fusion. The ethnically diverse members of Funkadesi had the crowd dancing wildly to their unique sound. There was no limit to what you could see at WorldFest. There was everything from Flamenco and Irish dancing to African-American drumming and jazz.
People were also able to satisfy their cravings for ethnic food by visiting some of the many international food vendors. Louisville restaurants like the Taj Palace, Los Aztecas and Asiatique catered quick, to-go cuisine that people could eat while enjoying the live entertainment in Fountain Square.
“I love trying food from around the world,” said Michelle Kral, a college student who had traveled from Lexington, Ky., to attend the event. “WorldFest just makes it easier for me since I can try so many kinds of food at once instead of having to go to multiple restaurants.”
Not only were vendors selling food and souvenirs from their native countries, but also were often doing so in order to promote and raise money for humanitarian causes like the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation USA’s project to educate poor children in India.
WorldFest was a wonderful opportunity for anyone wanting to experience and learn about new cultures. The festival reminded people that embracing cultural diversity is important as well as fun.
(Published in The Concord Sept. 7, 2010)