We are entering Fall Festival Season here in St. Louis. Community and High School Homecoming celebrations will begin to crowd our calendars along with a host of art shows, outdoor fall concerts, special events and, of course, the obligatory wine and craft beer celebrations for October-fest among so much else.
It all started this past weekend with the International Institute’s “Festival of Nations” held in Tower Grove Park just south of the Botanical Gardens. The two-day event boasted 44 food booths ranging from American, Armenian and Argentinian cuisines to Zambian. The smells alone were mouthwatering and tempting. Additionally, a bazaar stretched along the southern loop of the festival grounds. Booth and kiosk after booth and kiosk offered clothing, jewelry and art from over 34 countries.
This “Festival of Nations” celebration represented the 16th annual event. “Since 1919, the International Institute of St. Louis has been helping immigrants and their families be productive Americans and championing ethnic diversity as a cultural and economic strength. The Institute offers comprehensive adjustment services for refugees and immigrants.” II’s foundation is built on Three Pillars of Service: Immersion, Investment, and Inclusion.
The international flavor of the event was most pronounced however in the five “stages” that were scattered throughout the eastern half of the park. There was the World Stage on which a variety of Latin and African groups performed continuously through out the day. There was a “Village Green”, which was actually a large enclosure on the ground defined by trees and strategically placed hay bales at which you could learn to folk dance. I witnessed a “How To Bollywood Dance” and an Armenian Wedding dance. Various other types of cultural entertainment were presented continuously through the day.
Numerous community organizations were present including Great Rivers Greenway, the Red Cross, Marion Medical Missions, an entire circus tent devoted to “Religions of The World,” and one also dedicated to St. Louis’ sister cities around the world.
The crowd was large but because the event was spread out over the eastern half of Tower Grove Park, it did not seem at all congested or cramped. As you would expect, there were people from all nationalities, countries and regions of the world in attendance and the “people watching” was first rate. Picnickers spread blankets on the park lawn beneath the giant Bald Cypress trees and did what Sunday (or Saturday) afternoons were made for – relaxing, socializing and . . . eating!
Submitted by Mark Kumming, WCD Member