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"Number 1 Festival" Slated for April 26 at UAFS

"Number 1 Festival" Slated for April 26 at UAFS(Posted: April 1, 2014)

The festival voted last year as the "number one festival in Fort Smith" by Entertainment Fort Smith magazine returns to the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus on April 26, providing students and community members a way to travel around the world without leaving town.

Hours for the seventh annual International Festival – dubbed iFest – are from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. in Stubblefield Center. The event, which is free and open to the public, kicks off with a parade, when representatives from each country dressed in traditional costume will present their respective flags.

Visitors can "tour" a foreign country after the parade and purchase a ticket, which costs $1, for a drink or a sample of food. The first 100 people who visit all the countries' booths will receive a free souvenir. Students, faculty, student organizations and community members host the booths and show their cultural heritage. The event was originally scheduled outside but moved to Stubblefield Center due to weather predictions.

An art competition with the theme "Visions of the World" is being held this year in conjunction with the festival. The competition is open to all currently enrolled UAFS students, and winners, who will be announced at iFest, will be awarded cash prizes.

The art will be displayed in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center the week prior to the festival, with all artwork available for sale at $25 each. Purchases can be made at the Box Office, room 103 of the Campus Center, with artwork available for pickup after the display ends on May 15. All proceeds will benefit the International Scholarship Program at UAFS. Artists names will be revealed to the buyer upon purchase.

Rasila Soumana, a native of Niger and a UAFS student majoring in biology and psychology, is an iFest "country host." This is her fourth year of affiliation with the festival. Soumana explained that all visitors receive a free "passport" to see the world.

"People who come to iFest can taste the food from countries they may have never seen," she said. "They can see and hear how people in foreign countries live, dress, listen to music and produce their arts and crafts."

Takeo Suzuki of Fort Smith, executive director of international relations at UAFS, said the entertainment and food at the festival are tied to the main purpose of this event.

"The festival is a chance for local people to come, see and meet the great people of our area who come from the world," said Suzuki. "We're expecting 2,000 people this year."

Featured countries and cultures in the festival are Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Gabon, Germany, Hmong, India, Ireland, Japan, Nepal, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, Vietnam and several others.

Suzuki said the festival began as an international potluck dinner and has evolved into an event that allows others to learn through dance, music, and informational booths as well as traditional cultural dishes.

UAFS is becoming an increasingly global campus, according to Suzuki. He said UAFS had 50 international students attending classes on campus last year, and this year that number has risen to 80. In addition, 100 UAFS students are going to study abroad this year.

This event has been planned and coordinated by the iFest Committee. Committee members include Janice Beran, chair, and committee members Susan Devero, Stacey Jones, Dr. Lee Krehbiel, Peter Cullum, Dave Stevens, Anne Thomas, Takeo Suzuki and Brock Holland.

Suzuki, said iFest is an outgrowth of the International Studies Committee's mission to develop strategic and policy advice in the context of the University's desire to secure its position as a leading international university in the 21st century.

"The beauty of this country," Suzuki said, "is that we minimize our differences and celebrate our similarities. This iFest helps celebrate how we are all alike and yet we are also different."

For more information on iFest, contact Linda Thao, administrative specialist in the International Relations Office, at 479-788-7975.

Article by: Sondra LaMar, Director of Public Relations

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