Traveling the world in Louisville

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Traveling the world in Louisville

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Louisville’s 17th annual WorldFest was held from August 30 to September 2, with free admission all four days. The event took place at the Belvedere at 5th and Main Street, and was sponsored primarily by local businesses such as GE, The Galt House and WLKY. 

A Nigerian vendor bartered with a Korean couple over dashikis, Puerto Rican vendors dished out tostones. Three different stages were set for eighty different live bands across the weekend, that ranged from Flamenco Arabian World Music to African-American Blues. 

Citizens from all different races, ethnicities and backgrounds came to support and participate in the cultural celebration, with over 50 countries represented in the Parade of Cultures. 

At noon on Saturday, Aug. 31, the Parade of Cultures began. A formation of Scottish bagpipers began the march, followed by the UNICEF representatives in their blue gear. Countries were grouped in alphabetical order and followed suit through from 5th and Market street to the Belvedere Ramp, headed to the Overlook stage. Each group waved their flag of heritage, with some in traditional dress, singing a national anthem in chorus or dancing to music only they could hear. 

Those of European, African, South American, Asian, Central American and North American descent had a chance to display their pride during the parade. Even when the procession became momentarily stalled, Mexico continued with their Jarabe Tapatio (Mexican Hat Dance), sporting the traditional outfits to match. 

Once a country would reach the Overlook area, they would send one representative onstage with their sign, whilst another would plant the flag next to the stage. 

Mayor Greg Fischer and Congressman John Yarmuth took to the Overlook Stage as the Parade came to a close, the array of nations spread behind them.

“[Diversity] gives us our strength, our energy, and our future,” Congressman John Yarmuth said, “And I know there are people in this country- who are fortunately the minority- who want to close the door to immigration…. not only is immigration not a threat to our country, this is the future of our country.”

Mayor Greg Fischer addressed the crowd,  “Folks, today is simply a day to get together and show the world what a great city looks like. It’s a time to get together and make sure that any time we hear anybody have any kind of hate speech or speech of division, we reject them. We tell them to move on.”

He declared Louisville as a city of love, compassion, kindness, immigrants and refugees.

“We are a city of immigrants, but we’re also a world of many different nations living peacefully together. And that’s our goal, is to live in peace and compassion and kindness and show the rest of the world what a city looks like that comes together with compassion, equity and globalization.” 

 Manual’s diversity was reflected in the attendance of Worldfest as well, with students from every grade participating in some way. 

Liam Spurlock (10, MST) and Alex Park (10, MST) honored their heritage in the Parade of Cultures. Liam walked with the Philippines and Alex with South Korea.

“It’s a big part of our identity,” said Alex, “representing that is a big thing.”  Liam readily agreed, “it’s letting other people experience cultures and experience others too.”

Elif Ozyurekoglu (12, MST )  helped operate the U.S Turkish Youth booth, and walked in the Parade of Cultures that afternoon as well.  

“It was a lot of fun….I think sometimes we forget how diverse we are and how many different nations are among us. I think that it’s not just what makes us different, but what makes us similar to each other are these different cultures,” she said.  

“Usually every year we have a booth set up where we sell different products that are related to Tibet and Buddhism and all of those products. But this year there was no booth, so we just walked in the parade and waved our flag around,” Amber Klein (11, MST) said.  

She expressed how she thinks WorldFest has helped to show that Louisville is a really beautiful and diverse place with so many cultures to share, and that Tibet is one of those. 

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Like if you’re interested, you can always walk into the booth and ask one of the people any questions you have. People love to talk,” Klein said.

Natalie Falkner from the Kentucky Department of Social Services had a booth set up, and agreed to an interview about the impact of diversity on Louisville. 

How have you been impacted because of Louisville’s diversity?

“We work with a very diverse crowd of people, we work with a lot of people from a lot of different countries. I think that it’s been a positive thing, personally.”

Have you seen that immigrants or refugees feel comfortable here or do you still see harassment/ discrimination?

“I live just outside Louisville, so not in Metro Louisville, and in my experience, the population there seems a little fearful. Especially in our line of work, we help a lot of people get set up with medical insurance and such and I think they’re afraid that because we’re a state agency that we’ll deport them, which is not the case.”

Why is WorldFest important to the younger generation?

WorldFest introduces the youth to many different cultures and gives them an idea of what other parts of the world offer.” 

Natalie gives the advice that you should always be kind and try to open yourself up to different ways of looking at things. “You may surprise yourself with what you learn.”

Featured Image taken by Cesca Campisano.