5 Things to Expect from the International Institute’s Festival of Nations
If a nation’s culture resides in the hearts and the soul of its people, then there’s no better time to experience the cultures of the world than during the Festival of Nations, the multi-cultural celebration that showcases the heart of St. Louis diversity. Every late August during the two-day festival, you can stroll through the crowded, sun-dappled thoroughfare of Tower Grove Park and spy Ampy Kollman-Moore, a long-time devotee of the International Institute, the organization that has coordinated the festival for the past 18 years.
Upon arriving to the U.S. from her native-born Colombia, Kollman-Moore joined the Institute and took English lessons. From there, she went on to serve on the board and as festival chair. Since that time, she has remained a steadfast volunteer and advocate of the both the Institute and the festival.
“I believe in the cause and the great people who work there. I’m glad to support them,” says Kollman-Moore. Here are a few of her favorite things to look for at the festival.
- The food. This year brings even more to love. With 47 different food booths to choose from, featuring cuisine from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, you can’t go wrong. This year, sample a Georgian Khachapuri (cheese-filled bread) or a variety of healthy poke from Hawaii.
- The gifts. Beautiful carvings, jewelry, and handmade curios from halfway around the world will dazzle the eye, like Laotian purses and intricate lace from Germany.
- Activities. Dance your way around the world with free dance lessons, learn about different games from different countries, or chat with volunteers in the interactive learning center.
- Performances. Three stages will present everything from African drumming and Native American storytelling to Spanish flamenco and Scottish bagpipes.
- Crafts. Bring the youngsters for a weekend of fun and discovery. Try the Kids Music Workshop, where kids can make their own instruments and then participate in a parade with them.
While Kollman-Moore enjoys the festivities, this year’s Festival of Nations is more important than ever. “There is this thing in the culture where people fear what they don’t know, and people dislike what they don’t understand,” she explains. “That’s why the Festival of Nations is a great opportunity to meet your neighbors. The goal is to help people find commonalities. We get to show the cultures, the traditions, the food and people get to know each other better.”
Every year has seen record crowds and this season will be no different. Last summer, attendance estimates were over 150,000 people. This year, plan ahead and park at one of their off-site parking lots to ride a free shuttle to the festival.
Festival of Nations
Tower Grove Park
Find more information at festivalofnationsstl.org.
This story has been brought to you in part by the mentioned organization. Thank you for supporting the businesses that keep ALIVE growing. All photography courtesy of the International Institute.