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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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April 9: Mankato Area International Festival

"Rhythm of Our Nations" is the theme for this year's annual festival.

Minnesota State University, Mankato Centennial Student Union News Release, 3-24-2017

A day celebrating global unity and regional cultural enrichment through food, family fun and fashion is planned as the Mankato Area International Festival returns Sunday, April 9 to the Centennial Student Union at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“Rhythm of Our Nations” is the theme for this year’s annual festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will be highlighted by international food sampling and free entertainment. Admission is free and free adjacent parking is available on campus. Festival information is available online here.

The largest one-day event held annually in the CSU is coordinated by the Kearney International Center at Minnesota State Mankato with assistance from international student volunteers. The festival is funded in part through the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council.

Nicketa Coombs, graduate assistant at the Kearney International Center and 2017 chair of the annual international festival, said the festival is a global celebration honoring the Mankato area and the University.

“It is truly amazing to see people from all over the world coming together to celebrate different cultures nurtured by the University and the Mankato community,” said Coombs, a native of Jamaica. “I am proud to be involved in a day that promotes unity, respect and inclusiveness. Take your entire family to the festival, you won’t be disappointed.”

The festival opens at 11 a.m. with a ceremonial Native American smudging ritual in the CSU Hearth Lounge that will be led by Glenn Wasicuna, a world language adjunct faculty member at Minnesota State Mankato.

Immediately following the smudging, the traditional flag parade will include nearly 100 international flags carried by Minnesota State Mankato international students. Parade marshal Bill Olszewski will lead the flag procession through the CSU. Olszewski, emeritus faculty member at Minnesota State Mankato, is chair of the Gladys B. Olson International Student Endowment.

Olson, a former mass communications professor, passed away in July 2016. She is credited with starting the University’s first international student scholarship in 1988 with a personal contribution of $1,000. The endowment, named in her honor in 2013, now includes more than $700,000 and annually provides 10 international student scholarships.

Other activities throughout the day include international foods, international entertainment, an international bazaar featuring cultural booths, a Children’s World activity center and a silent auction.

Among key attractions at the annual International Festival is a range of free entertainment by regional professional performers as well as international student groups.

Professional entertainment throughout the day includes On the Way to Uskudar, a trio performing music of Turkey and the Balkans using traditional and modern musical instruments; Scottish music by Every Tuesday Night; Urban Flavor, a six-piece Minneapolis group that fuses Afro Cuban drumming into jazz, funk and soul; Nkauj Ntxuam Dej, an award-winning Hmong dance team from Dao Lan Dance Studio in St. Paul; and the Everett Smithson Band, a five-piece blues and zydeco band whose performance will include a free 30-minute harmonica lesson.

Queen Booker, festival entertainment chair, said the day is not just for area residents to experience other cultures. It also is an opportunity for members of the international community to learn about American culture. This year’s entertainment includes New Orleans style blues music. Other entertainment will be provided by student groups, with performances planned for Ostrander Auditorium, the CSU Hearth Lounge and the CSU Ballroom lobby area.

Guests to the international festival will be able to purchase sample portions of a variety of international cuisine prepared by local vendors and international student organizations. Vendors will be on the main and lower levels of the CSU as well as in the cultural bazaar area of the CSU Ballroom.

International food samplings expected at this year’s festival include MEXICO: four kinds of Mexican guacamole; JAPAN: Teriyaki chicken; INDIA: Chicken curry with rice and mango lassi; PAKISTAN: Kulfi (ice cream); VIETNAM: Vegetarian spring roll, pork and shrimp spring roll; ASIAN PACIFIC: Cream cheese wonton with imitation crab; NIGERIA: Chicken pie, chicken suya, zobo drink; NEPAL: Momo meat and vegetarian sampler.

The ballroom also offers an assortment of games, crafts and activities for youth in the children’s world area.

Other day’s activities include an international fashion show at 3:30 p.m. in the CSU Hearth Lounge, a cultural bazaar with global vendors in the CSU Ballroom, and a silent auction in the CSU Heritage Lounge Auction. Pieces in the auction will include donated international items, and a featured Mavericks table will offer University theatre tickets, sports tickets and memorabilia and other donated University items.

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