International Festival brings diversity to downtown

Anna Lawson

Every year, Circus Square Park downtown fills with vendors and live performances to celebrate diversity and cultures from all over the world. 

The Bowling Green International Festival, which will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday, offers a chance for many different heritages in Bowling Green to come together and share food, dance and music. 

The festival’s mission statement says the event is hosted in order to celebrate and promote diversity. 

Various booths are set up by vendors and run by businesses, such as the Budweiser Beer Garden, or individuals, such as artisans bringing themed merchandise. There is also a long list of demonstrators and performers, including the WKU Chinese Music Club. 

Terrill Martin, the managing director of the Confucius Institute, said the institute  will have face painting and calligraphy booths, among other activities at the festival. They will be working with the department of Modern Languages and Panda Express at the event. 

They will have about 20 booths in order to bring all of their activities together. The institute will also be bringing in a performance troop to perform skits during the festival. 

Martin said they have been involved in the program in the past, but never in such a large way.

 “This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Confucius Institute,” Martin said. “We are going big to really celebrate it. We had a conference on the same day last year, so we couldn’t really be involved in the festival as much as we wanted to.” 

Martin said the international festival provides a very necessary outlook on different cultures.

“For me personally, it is the way of the world,” he said. “The world is becoming a much more diverse place. When you become sensitive to one culture, you become sensitive to other cultures. While we celebrate our differences, we learn that we are all much more alike than we realize.”

Bowling Green International, a non-profit organization, organizes the festival each year. They also work with students and other people throughout the community to make the event a success. 

Multiple attempts were made to contact representatives of Bowling Green International, but calls were not returned prior to publication.

All money raised for the festival comes from previous donations and profits made throughout the day of the festival. All money goes directly toward  funding future festivals. They are always accepting sponsors and donations from the community. 

Admission is $4 for adults. Children age 12 and under are admitted for free. 

The festival has been going on since 1989. It spawned from the International Folk Festival, which was hosted by the Bowling Green Human Rights Commission and the Bowling Green and Warren County NAACP chapters. 

The first three festivals were held on Memorial Day, but in 1994, they decided to change the tradition and host it in the fall. The decision was made in order to allow students from WKU and other surrounding schools in the community to participate in the event.

The festival has become one of the region’s top events, with 15,000 festival goers, according to the official website. 

Bowling Green sophomore Laura-Leigh Halter has attended the festival several times. She said one of her favorite parts is the variety of food available throughout the day.

“The International Festival is a great way for the people of Bowling Green to become more aware of the diverse cultures all around them and for people to indulge themselves in good music, food and knowledge,” she said.