The International Festival of Raleigh provides a comprehensive platform for local ethnic communities and multicultural artists to present international art in downtown Raleigh. Our yearly, three-day event serves over 25,000 attendees annually and is a key component of the City’s arts tradition.
The Festival’s artists are both professional and amateur, and represent Raleigh’s diverse population. More than 71 ethnic groups participate to present a variety of high-quality arts through dance and musical performances, ethnic cuisines, dance, and global cooking workshops, visual art, calligraphy, textile design, and cultural expression from across the globe.
Programming and activities included:
Naturalization Ceremony: Approximately 250 people representing over 83 countries will become United States citizens at a moving citizenship ceremony. The ceremony is the traditional grand opening of the festival each year and features municipal and state-wide dignitary speakers.
Main Stage: Ethnic and folkloric dances are performed by ethnic groups, studios, and international dance schools giving them a platform to express their art.
Variety Stage: This participatory stage is open to dance studios, schools, bands, and other community stakeholders to engage in creative art.
Children’s Corner: The Festival partners with local organizations, such as Raleigh Parks and Recreation, museums, and other groups to create ethnic arts and crafts experiences. Young visitors participate in a scavenger hunt “around the world,” paint on the canvas wall, enjoy performance art, puppet shows and storytelling (written and spoken word), and participate in other activities and games, such as mask-making, saree demonstration, and ethnic crafts.
Cultural Exhibits: Over 40 exhibits present traditions from their respective cultures through the prism of an annual theme and invite visitors to engage in activities and learning. Each booth is decorated by the ethnic group represented using traditional arts and crafts that relate to the theme. The booth is then staffed by a member for that ethnic group to provide live discussion of the culture and artisanship.
Sidewalk Cafés: Mini-restaurants created to look like a building in the respective country serve authentic food from around the world. These booth facades are crafted, painted and maintained by local artists annually.
Vendor Booths: Arts and crafts from around the world are available to take home through a variety of vendor booths where artisans can share their skills. In addition to traditional craft items, these booths offer decorative arts such as henna, as well as healing arts such as massage.
Dance Competition: Community groups perform, compete, and develop new talent.
Passport Program: Young (and old) attendees ‘travel the world’ to find the answers to cultural questions and receive stamps in their passport.
International Field Trip: Schools from around the state come to the festival on an International Field Trip with reduced admission. Sidewalk Café food vendors offer international menus at $5 or less, allowing the students to enjoy diverse cultural exhibitions and lunch for under $10. Students are invited to participate in an international dance on stage.
Art Exhibition: Bob Rankin, lifetime friend and artists behind the colorful posters, displays his artwork, paints, signs his posters, and interacts with the public. This year we invited two other artists to participate.
The International Block Party: Held at City Plaza, the heart of downtown Raleigh, this free event is intended to showcase the culturally rich experience the festival has to offer. International food vendors, bazaars, and folkloric dances from around the world.