Experience cultures from around the globe at the RiverCentre May 4-7

Image courtesy of Festival of Nations

By Charles Brandt

The rich tapestry of cultural diversity seen in the Twin Cities has helped us grow into an area of the country that offers a bit of everything. Native American heritage is an important legacy in our state’s history, along with early settlers who were Norwegian, Swedish, Irish, Welsh, English, Scottish and German, among others. More recently, many immigrants from around the world have found a home in St. Paul and Minneapolis, including families from Laos and eastern Africa. The diversity of our city can be seen vibrantly represented through our art and music scene, as well as the vast array of foods available throughout the Twin Cities. From the Thai restaurants that line University Avenue in St. Paul, to Dilla’s Ethiopian off Cedar and Riverside in Minneapolis, food from around the globe is always close by. With this in mind, it is no surprise that St. Paul plays host to the longest running multi-cultural festival in the midwest: the Festival of Nations.

The festival is put on by the International Institute of Minnesota at the RiverCentre in downtown St. Paul. Collaborating with members of more than 90 ethnic groups, the festival “celebrates cultural heritage and provides our community’s immigrants with a platform to express their stories through world-class performances, exhibits, ethnic cuisine and personal connections.”


Cafes, Bazaar and Performances

Crafts, toys, fabrics, clothing and more, inspired by cultural heritages from around the world, will be for sale in a large street-market style bazaar. If you’re looking for something truly unique, you’ll certainly find a wide selection to pick from the market. Throughout the Twin Cities, the selection of food and merchandise available at the bazaar and cafes is legendary.

The festival will also have three stages continuously delivering over 100 music and dance performances influenced by a vast array of cultural backgrounds. As a special presentation, the festival has partnered with the Khmer Legacy Cambodian Museum & Performing Arts Center in St. Paul to offer a number of performances and artist galleries by a group of visiting Cambodians. The performers will also present a Chai Yum—a traditional parade featuring giant puppets and live music.



Interactive demonstrations of many different cultural folk artisans will be available for those visiting the Festival of Nations celebration. There is so much going on this year, you’ll be hard-pressed to not find something that catches your interest. The 2017 lineup of demonstrations include African Warrior Bow & Raffia Costume Making, American Indian Silversmith, Chinese Calligraphy, Chinese Lingnam Flower & Bird Painting, Colombian Fiber Wall Tapestries, Czech and Slovak Egg Decorating, Ecuadorian Loom Weaving, German Star Making, German Porcelain Painting, Ghanaian Hair Braiding, Hmong Needlework, Indian Henna & Rangoli, Indian Traditional Painting, International Lace Making, Iraqi Caricature & Arabic Calligraphy, Italian Bocce Ball, Japanese Kimono Demonstrations, Khmer Angkorian Arts, Mexican Textiles, Mongolian Yurt Building, Native American Beadwork, Norwegian Hardanger, Polish Folk Art, Russian Folk Arts, Scandinavian Viking Age Crafts, Senegalese Pottery, Somali Finger Weaving, and Swiss Woodcarving and Ukrainian Egg Decorating.


For only $1, you’ll be able to purchase a passport to interact with representatives from many different nations through their national exhibit booths. These exhibits have representatives of countries and cultures from around the world, including Austrian, Bulgarian, Cambodian, Carpatho-Rusyn, Chinese, Colombian, Croatian, Czech & Slovak, Danish, Dutch, Egyptian, Finnish, French, Greek, Guatemalan, Haitian, Hmong, Hungarian, Indian, Iraqi, Italian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Moroccan, Nepalese, Palestinian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovenian, Sri Lankan, Sudanese, Taiwanese, Tamil, Thai, Tibetan, Turkish and Ukrainian.



There are a number of fun and exciting additional activities going on around the festival, including family-friendly excitement with the Wee World Wanderers Club, spooky folklore stories from around the world, opportunities to hear real-life stories from immigrants that came to America from all over the world, and also the opportunity to meet with members of our own Minnesota House of Representatives.


Metro Transit is offering free transportation to the event: download your pass today.

Dates and Hours:
Early-access on Thursday is available for student groups.
Friday, May 5: 4:30  – 10 p.m.
Saturday, May 6: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday, May 7: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

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