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Annual celebration of diversity to bring cultures together downtown

International Folk Festival plans expanded footprint Sept. 22-24


For 45 years, the International Folk Festival has served as a celebration of Fayetteville’s cultural diversity. 

This year, the Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County plans to expand the into more of downtown. The annual festival is set for Sept. 22-24, unofficially kicking off with Fiesta Latina as part of the Fourth Friday series on Hay Street. 

Fourth Friday is a monthly gathering produced by Cool Spring Downtown District from 6 to 9 p.m. each month. It includes performances, vendors and more. 

The Folk Festival will begin in earnest at 10 a.m. Saturday with the Parade of Nations, featuring more than 30 cultural groups representing nations around the world. This year, it will  add five nations: Azerbaijan, Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Uruguay. 

“Our mission is to celebrate the diversity of our country,” said Bob Pinson, president and CEO of the Arts Council. 

The festival will expand beyond its usual footprint of Festival Park, stretching  along Ray Avenue from Hay Street. It will feature an artists’ market, performance stages, live artists, and a kids’ area. An international cafe will include more than 30 food vendors with foods from around the world, most of which are cultural nonprofit groups working to raise cultural awareness. 

The Arts Council has introduced a $20 “Taste of the World” voucher that will allow festivalgoers to try four smaller plates of food from different cultures. Vouchers can be purchased in advance and claimed at the information booth during the festival. 

The Kids World of Wonder will include a petting zoo, bounce houses and crafts. The Arts Council will also have several of its Artists in Schools artists on hand to guide children in a variety of arts activities. 

Festival highlights include the Saturday morning Parade of Nations from 10 a.m. to noon, hot air balloon rides, and a Santana cover band performance Saturday night. 

Santanaways, based in California, was chosen to reflect Cumberland County’s Latino culture, said Antonio Renteria, the Arts Council's director of operations.

“Santanaways’ sound fits in really well with the diverse lineup we have planned for both Saturday and Sunday, when we'll be mixing in some other Latino bands,” Renteria said.

Santanaways will perform on the Festival Park main stage at 7 p.m. Saturday. Sunday’s headline band is Wazumbians, a Ghanaian Afro-fusion music group. 

“We're bringing back another band that will stay true to the origins of the festival,” Renteria said. “They have the drums, instrumentals, and vocals that play along well with the other bands we have programmed.”

For more information on the International Folk Festival, visit https://www.wearethearts.com/iff2023.

Contact Char Morrison at cmorrison@cityviewnc.com.

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Fayetteville, International Folk Festival, downtown, entertainment