Festival of Nations: Backpacking the World Without Leaving Town

This past weekend, I backpacked across Europe, Africa, and all over the world, all in the beautiful space of Tower Grove Park. This year’s Festival of Nations, presented by the International Institute, was perfectly laid out for easy browsing and conversational flow. It was a gorgeous sunny day, with great food, crafts like “henna hands,” cool music, and tons of friendly people. I’m sure there were more people this year than ever before. The International Institute is known for welcoming the people of the world to St. Louis, and the people of the world always welcome us back.

I was lucky to be a greeter this year, and had a great experience. I had time before my shift to watch Scottish log tossing, which was fun and very impressive to see, and then talked to the folks in the crafts tent. They had just finished a Latin American dance, followed by Mr. and Mrs. Hickman demonstrating German lacemaking. Mr. Hickman even let me try. I admired the delicate examples: flowers, wedding scenes, and such on display. He said proudly that his wife, a widely recognized lace master artist, was his teacher. She was a pleasure to meet!

Then it was on to African tie-dye, and I spoke with an expert in the art from Sierra Leone. We talked about the languages of Africa and how they compare to ebonics, and he displayed the pieces he had brought with him. Other highlights of the afternoon included vases and soft, bright sherbet-colored clothes from India. It was all so beautiful, but much of it was too expensive for me to purchase this year.

I wound up the afternoon with a bit of Somalian food — missed the Argentinean food, which some people said was a stand out — and even tasted Scottish liquor for the first time! They added water to it in a little cup for me, which I guess is how you drink it. Strong stuff! The Scottish booth also had tons of books to look at and wool weavings in tartan patterns.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. Thank you to the people of the International Institute for throwing such a unique event.


  • Michael Kuelker

    Excellent post about Festival of Nations. Just want to add that this event was the occasion of the return of Dubtronix, a reggae band featuring KDHX’s own DJ Ranx, who has recently been ill. It was an irie return to form for Ranx and his musical compadres, their first since the bandleader/DJ was struck ill last April. Big up, too, to 88.1 for being a sponsor of a benefit concert on his behalf in early May.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/sara_photos/sets/72157605112480141/ Eb

    Thanks! Be sure to keep the people posted on when you’ll b-by next! Sorry I missed it!!!!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/sara_photos/sets/72157605112480141/ Eb

    Check out Sara Finke’s Flickr set onDubtronix @ Harvest Sessions.