International Folk Festival brings diverse community together

A garden party organized by the YWCA for the immigrant population in Duluth 54 years ago has turned into one of the premiere festivals of the city. "Our mission has always been to empower women and girls and to eliminate racism," said Joan Oswald...

A garden party organized by the YWCA for the immigrant population in Duluth 54 years ago has turned into one of the premiere festivals of the city.
"Our mission has always been to empower women and girls and to eliminate racism," said Joan Oswald, development director at the YWCA. "The International Folk Festival started out as a garden party at the YWCA, but it gradually became a festival to bring the community together in all its diversity."
The festival is truly a celebration of the international community in Duluth, she said.
Every year, the festival features wonderful singing and dancing from all over the world as well as the chance to sample spicy foods and tasty tidbits from the cooking of Japan, Greece, Norway and Vietnam.
This year is no exception. On Saturday, Aug. 4, There will be two performance stages -- in Leif Erickson Park and on London Road.
Headliners include the Twin Cities Gospel Choir, an extraordinary choir from the Twin Cities, Mariachi Serenata, a Mexican vocal and musical group, Melinda Brobek, a Norwegian and Celtic folk singer, a blues singer, a Native American drum group and more.
Ethnic dancing is also an important component of the folk festival. This year's lineup includes dancers performing Scottish, Chinese, Irish, Greek and Middle Eastern dances. And two groups, Les Fils du Voyageur and EcudorManta, will stroll the grounds playing their music.
A celebration of the arts and crafts is also an important feature of the festival, and 30 local and regional artists will be displaying their work on London Road.
"We'll have everything from bowls to wood turning, jewelry to soap," said Karen Monson-Thompson, coordinator of the event. "We were really able to expand that."
There will lots of demonstrations, too. Duluth potter Dave Lynas will be there, throwing some pots, and Mark Burnstein, a rug weaver from North Dakota, will bring his loom and weave on site while Teresa McCue demonstrates Norwegian rosemaling.
There will also be demonstrations of Native American bead weaving, Celtic knotting, blacksmithing and multi-cultural hair braiding.
The Celtic knotter, Bernadette Galaba, is from Ireland, and will do demonstrations as well as interpretations of Celtic knotting, Monson-Thompson said. She'll also be interpreting the Flanagan Irish Dancers when they perform.
The international marketplace will also offer a number of new items this year including handmade baskets from Tanzania, Tibetan crafts from Nepal and South American sweaters.
The food should be great as well. India Palace will have a booth again this year, offering the exotic tastes from that country, and Howard Taylor will feature the down-home taste of barbecued ribs. The Greek booth, sponsored by Twelve Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church, will be there as will the Sister Cities Commission with delicacies from Japan and Russia, Nels Hersh with Australian battered potatoes and Kathy Jensen with gourmet jellies and jams. Delightfully Yours, which features traditional American foods like hamburgers, will also be there.
There will also be lots of activities for children and families as well as plenty of space to stretch out on the spacious lawns in the park and just enjoy the day.
To ease parking, WDIO-TV and the North Shore Scenic Railroad will offer free train rides from the DECC to Leif Erickson Park during the day, and the Duluth Transit Authority will provide trolley rides to and from the park as well.
Tickets are $2 for individuals and $5 per family and can be purchased at the entrance gates.
International Folk Festival stage events

Leif Erikson Dance Stage
10:20 a.m. -- Welcome by Duluth Mayor Gary Doty;
10:30 a.m. -- Duluth Scottish pipes and drums with the Highland Dancers;
11 a.m. -- Hillside Flyers, youth tumbling group;
11:30 a.m. -- Twin Cities Gospel Choir;
12:15 a.m. -- Twelve Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Dance Group;
12:30 p.m. -- Twin Cities Gospel Choir;
1:15 p.m. -- They Pyramids , Eman Haddad's Belly Dancing Studio;
1:30 p.m. -- C.A.A.M., Chinese Dance Theater;
2:30 p.m. -- C.A.A.M., Chinese Dance Theater;
3:30 p.m. -- Flanagan Irish Dancers;
4:30 p.m. -- Desert Caravan Dancers.
London Road Music Stage
10 a.m. -- Duluth/Superior Area Youth Band;
10:35 a.m. -- Welcome by Duluth Mayor Gary Doty;
11 a.m. -- Mariachi Serenata, Mexican vocal and musical group;
noon -- Duluth Klezmer Band;
1 p.m. -- Kyle Councillor, Native American flute;
2 p.m. -- Melinda Brobek, Norwegian and Celtic folk singer;
3 p.m. -- Burnside Lake Singers and Native American Drum;
4 p.m. -- Mel Sando, blues;
5 p.m. -- Dan Friedman, American folk music.

Joan Farnam is the Budgeteer community page editor and can be reached at . or 723-1207.

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