On Sunday, Sept. 24, South Park in Lawrence will be filled with the sounds, smells and tastes of cultures from around the world.
About 40 tables have been reserved through the Lawrence Alliance, which organizes the Festival of Cultures every year, for the people of Lawrence and surrounding communities to share their culture with attendees.
“It’s a festival that celebrates the various cultures in Lawrence,” said Baha Safadi, an organizer for the event. “Where people bring their food to share and sell, their cultures, paraphernalia, customs and whatever they want to sell and showcase at the festival.”
The sidewalks in the park are lined with tables, each with homemade posters advertising different delicacies and crafts for sale. From homemade empanadas to frybread to chicken masala — virtually every type of ethnic food that has made its way to Lawrence make an appearance at the festival. People also sell items such as beaded bags, saris, wooden sculptures, and many other trinkets or clothing from people’s native countries.
“The Lawrence Alliance is a city advisory board that promotes diversity, multiculturalism, peaceful coexisting, nondiscrimination, and from that nine or 10 years ago (when this began), we decided to open that door to the festival in Lawrence and try it, and it worked very successfully. It’s been growing every year,” Safadi said.
Women in elaborate skirts and beautifully beaded headdresses will take to the William Kelly Bandstand to perform traditional dances. But the dances aren’t exclusive, as anyone is welcome to reserve a time to perform for guests at the festival.
When asked what his favorite part is, Safadi barely missed a beat before saying, “the food.” He laughed, and began listing all the other entertaining aspects of the festival: the dances, music and chance to meet people from other cultures.
“But the food is really what brings the people in,” he reiterated, laughing again.
The Lawrence Alliance specifies that vendors have to have a cultural connection to participate, but that’s basically the only rule. Safadi said they will accept last-minute sign-ups the day of the event, as space allows. Tables are $15. For information, visit lawrencealliance.org/festival-of-cultures.
The festival is free to attend and is from noon to 5 p.m., at South Park, at the corner of Massachusetts Street and 12th Street in Lawrence.