Madison has long had a reputation for cultivating racial and ethnic diversity. In fact, in examining ethnic and racial breakdowns, it can very readily be classified as one of Wisconsin’s most diverse cities, making it a mecca for culture and for those who possess a desire to learn and explore.

The city’s ability to foster diversity has given birth to a series of multiethnic events, one of the most prodigious and revolutionary being the annual International Festival, which will be held this Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Overture Center. What better way to get a taste, glimpse and sense of everything our community –moreover, our world – has to offer than by hitting up the festival and experiencing it firsthand?

The event will provide a distinct and enlightening cultural adventure, featuring arts, crafts, foods and performances from more than 25 different nations across the globe. While the arts, crafts and foods will be set up in the form of tables and booths, allowing them to remain accessible at any point during the festival, the cultural performances will follow a pre-established schedule, running from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The program will begin with a concert of traditional Swiss mountain instruments, followed by African and Hispanic dance acts, Brazilian acrobatics, interactive Caribbean folklore and traditional Taiwanese “glove puppet” theater. For a lively finale, the line-up is set to conclude with Yiddish folk music, which will surely prompt dancing and celebration.

While learning about all of the cultures present would permit the festival to serve its educational purposes, attendees may come and go as they please, visiting booths with foods they particularly enjoy or viewing showcases that highlight cultures about which they are especially curious.

In holding this event, the Overture and event sponsors look to do more than simply provide entertainment and education. The event serves to put members of the community in direct contact with global cultural offerings and forms of artistic expression found right here in Madison. It gives members of the public an opportunity to assimilate with groups that differ from themselves, an opportunity to broaden their horizons. Ultimately, the International Festival fosters not only intellectual maturity but cultural maturity for us as global citizens. It encourages open-mindedness, acceptance, tolerance and intercultural relations.

Rather than wasting away another Saturday, do something out of the ordinary, see something different and learn something that extends beyond the four walls of a dreary classroom. Take a trip around the world. You don’t need a plane or a train to embark on your journey. The International Festival is bringing the world to you.

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