Attendees explored over 100 cultures all within the heart of South Carolina at the 24th annual Columbia International Festival.
Crowds of people filed in and out of the Cantey and Goodman buildings at the Fairgrounds all day Saturday. Inside, there were booths featuring each country represented, vendors with artisan goods and a multicultural food court. Dance groups and musicians performed throughout the day.
The afternoon kicked off with an Olympic-style parade of nations.
University president Harris Pastides, the community ambassador of the festival, spoke to the audience before the parade began. He said peace cannot happen without cultural understanding.
“Even if you’re here for the wonderful culture and the wonderful food, we are making world peace today,” Pastides said.
He said Columbia is the most international city in South Carolina with more languages spoken here than any other city in the state. Pastides ended his speech with a message to the audience.
“Let love rule over hate in whatever you do and if you can find a little love for the Gamecocks, that would be great also,” Pastides said.
One by one, members from each country walked in the parade, holding their country’s flags and dressed in traditional clothing. Attendees were encouraged to cheer for their home country. Germany, the honored country at the festival this year, filed in last.
Heidi Chavious, a volunteer at the German booth, has participated in the festival for the past 16 years. This is the first time Germany has been the honored country.
Chavious wore a traditional German outfit as she sat at the booth, handing out the 3,000 paper flags that she made for the event.
“For the festivities we still wear dirndls and lederhosen, but obviously not everyday,” Chavious said.
She said she hopes festival attendees learn a fun fact or two about Germany while they're at the event.
Ellie Fisher, a fourth-year international business and accounting student and member of USC's German Club, saw the event on Facebook and said she decided to come because she enjoys cultural festivals.
“I haven’t been everywhere in the world, so it’s interesting to see it all combined here,” Fisher said.
Attendees could visit each country’s booth to learn more about the language or history of the country. Some booths included interactive activities, like translating your name to Chinese or receiving Henna tattoos.
The food court was the most crowded section of the festival. Attendees tried different cuisines from all around the world including lucuma pie from Peru, bratwursts from Germany, tandoori chicken from Bangladesh and crêpes from France.
Katie McKinley, a third-year biology student, attended the festival for the first time this year. She said she tried a Polish pierogi, but her favorite aspect was looking at the different art from vendors.
“I saw this Iraqi art that was letters made with paper that was rolled up really tightly and it was really intricate,” McKinley said.
The two-day festival continues Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. and admission is $7.