Though weird Madison weather forced some performer cancellations, the International Festival at the Overture Center Saturday still created a diverse, entertaining environment instilling a further sense of community within Madison.

More than 30 groups from different cultural heritages were slated to perform prior to the day’s weather cancellations, but many groups still made it out to perform, sell cultural clothing and food, and share in the diversity of Madison.

Prior to entering into the performance space, vendors awaited spectators and greeted them with cultural wares, foods and beverages. Foods from curries to pasta to fondant cookies all found their place in the fair. More booths awaited guests on the upper level of the center, featuring handmade clothing for dolls and even a koto player. These experiences are not typically available to the average Madisonian, so to see them all in the same space was positively overwhelming.

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The groups at the International Festival perform with such energy that you can’t help but be captivated and enveloped in what they represent. It was truly an amazing spectacle, a one of a kind event. Each group showcased the beauty behind their culture in their own ways. 

The opening ceremony for the event consisted of a Ho-Chunk welcome from Elliott Funmaker and other members of the Ho-Chunk nation. The group performed traditional Ho-Chunk songs honoring the flag and veterans as well as songs such as the men’s fancy dance which displayed beautiful movement and regalia.

One of the groups at the festival, DanzTrad, performed and taught Mexican dances. They try to involve everything that represents the culture, traditions and life in Mexico. Their incredible ability to illustrate influences from other regions reminded us of the aspects of Europe and Africa that are embedded in Mexican culture.

DanzTrad is a magnificent example of how art allows blendings of cultures and how performances can allow people to experience life somewhere else in a way that it may not normally be portrayed to them.  

To DanzTrad and many other organizations present, events like these are important to the community because it allows for the opportunity for Madisonians to better understand people from different regions and look for solutions within the community.

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Varied performance styles allowed for performers of all ages and cultures to shine.

Children associated with the Zhong Yi Kung Fu Association performed amazing routines and tricks with various fruits and vegetables. Elsewhere in the facility, choirs such as the Mt. Zion Gospel Choir and the Madison Männerchor brought a multitude of styles of music to the event. With a large number of acts, the event served as a marvelous sampling of different culture’s art.

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There was a striking variation in the demographics present in the audience at the event as well. Young and old alike found a spot in the crowd to watch the performances and sample different cuisines. The audience was as diverse as the performers on stage, with the packed crowds leading to more opportunities for interaction between audience members who did not know each other prior to the day’s events.

Through events like Madison’s International Fest we gain the ability, or at least the opportunity, to understand and connect to the rest of the world. The entertainment provided is like no other. More than that, the festival created a space in which people are able to be a part of more than themselves.