The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County will be holding its 45th Annual International Folk Festival (IFF) in downtown Fayetteville over the weekend of Sept. 22-24. In addition to all the regularly planned festivities, attendees can expect to experience several new and exciting features this year.
Following the 4th Friday “Fiesta Latina”-themed festivities in downtown Fayetteville on Friday, Sept. 22, IFF will officially launch with the Parade of Nations, which is scheduled to take place on Hay Street at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23. Among the 30+ groups representing different countries from around the world this year, there are five new countries that will be represented for the first time: Azerbaijan, Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Uruguay.
One of the biggest draws to IFF is always the food, and this year’s event offers festival-goers an opportunity to choose from 30+ food vendors. While commercial food vendors and trucks will be positioned around downtown, attendees will find all the international food vendors lining Festival Park’s promenade, in the International Cafe.
The Arts Council is introducing “Taste of the World” vouchers this year. Providing four food samples for $20 total, these vouchers may be purchased in advance through Eventbrite and claimed at the IFF Information Booth on the day(s) of the event. Each international food vendor will have a designated menu item that can be sampled upon presentation of a voucher.
Historically, IFF primarily has focused its programming in Festival Park, but this year, the event is spreading its footprint much further into downtown, capitalizing on the community feeling that is synonymous with Cool Spring Downtown District. The Arts Market, which will feature nearly 40 vendors, will now be staged on Ray Avenue, and the international stage will be positioned at the intersection of Hay Street and Ray Avenue. While that stage will feature all international and cultural group performances–everything from hula dancers to Bharatnatyam–Festival Park’s main stage will be reserved for international bands.
Additionally, festival-goers are encouraged to walk the length of Hay Street and engage with all the live art–including chalk, spray, and bleach art.
Appearing for the first time at the Arts Council’s IFF is SantanaWays–a popular Carlos Santana tribute band based out of California–which will be performing as the headlining band on Festival Park’s main stage Saturday night.
As the Arts Council’s Director of Operations, Antonio Renteria, shared in a press release, “We know we have a really big Latino culture here in Cumberland County, and we wanted to reflect that, but also offer a concert experience mainstream enough that it’s recognizable to the rest of our community. Plus, Santanaways’ sound fits in really well with the diverse lineup we have planned for both Saturday and Sunday, when we'll be mixing in some other Latino bands. People can sing along to Santanaways’ tunes while enjoying a light show, as well.”
The headlining band on Sunday, Wazumbians, has already proven itself to be a popular one at prior International Folk Festivals. This Afrofusion music group from Ghana offers sounds that echo the famous Ghanaian group Osibisa, which is known for its pioneering role in world music around the globe.
“We're bringing back another band that will stay true to the origins of the festival,” Renteria expressed in a press release. “They have the drums, instrumentals, and vocals that play along well with the other bands we have programmed. Once again, just like we tour the world with our cuisine options, we tour the world with our music offerings, and in this case, we’ll be showcasing Ghana’s traditional musical roots on our main stage.”
IFF’s activities for children will include the Kid’s World of Wonder area that offers both a free play area and a paid play area with specialty features and rides, such as a train. The Arts Council has recruited several of their Artists in Schools artists to help engage children in a variety of arts activities, bringing their senses alive. Expect to find bounce houses, instrument-petting zoo, hands-on crafting stations, performances and more there.
The Arts Council would like to thank its major sponsors–NC Education Lottery, Lumbee River Electric, RE/MAX, NC Arts Council, Cumberland County, and City of Fayetteville–for their generous support of this year’s festival.
Information and updates on this year’s IFF, can be found online at https://www.wearethearts.com/iff2023 as well as the Arts Council’s Facebook (@ArtsCouncilFay) or Instagram (@artscouncilfay).
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