World travelers can avoid the hassle of airline check-in, cruise disasters and the high cost of tickets by attending “iFest 2013,” an “around-the-world in-a-day” celebration of culture on April 13 at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith.
iFest will be held from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on the Campus Green.
Rasila Soumana of Fort Smith, the event manager, said she was excited that iFest was listed in Entertainment Fort Smith as the city’s favorite festival. The event is free and open to the public. Soumana, a native of Niger and a UAFS student majoring in biology and psychology, is also a “country host.” This is her third year of affiliation with the festival.
Soumana explained that all visitors receive a free “passport” to see the world. Visitors can purchase a ticket to “tour a foreign country,” she said. A ticket, which costs $1, entitles the bearer to a drink or a sample of food. The first 100 people who visit all the countries’ booths will receive a free souvenir.
“People who come to iFest can taste the food from countries they’ve never seen,” she said. “They can see and hear how people in foreign countries live, dress, listen to music and produce their arts and crafts.”
Takeo Suzuki of Fort Smith, executive director of international relations at UAFS, said the entertainment and food at the festival are tied to the main purpose of this event.
“The festival is a chance for local people to come, see and meet the great people of our area who come from arount the world,” said Suzuki. “We’re expecting 2,000 people this year.”
The logo and posters for the festival were designed by the students taught by Bryan Alexis of Fort Smith, graphic design instructor. Alexis divided his class of 16 students into four groups and gave them one week to develop an identity package for the event. Suzuki gave the students latitude to “re-brand” the event.
The teams developed a complete corporate identity proposal which included T-shirts, posters, ads, logo treatments, letterhead and business cards. Then the three teams made presentations to Suzuki and his group, who selected the winning design. The presentation even included a new name for the event.
Stacey Jones of Fort Smith, associate vice chancellor of campus and community events, said the variety of entertainment reflects the diversity of international cultures on campus.
“We have everything from polka bands and fiddlers to Hmong dancers and Irish and Celtic music,” Jones said. “Of course, we’re here in the middle of America, so we’ll have jazz, too.”
Soumana said the event will kick off with a parade around the Campus Green, when representatives from each country, dressed in traditional costume, will present their respective flags. Afterwards, visitors will be able to explore countries through representative booths on the Campus Green. Students, faculty, student organizations and community members will host the booths and show their cultural heritage. Stubblefield Center is the alternate venue in case of rain.
Featured countries and cultures in the festival are Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, England, Estonia, France, Gabon, Germany, Hmong, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Nepal, Niger, Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Serbia, South Korea, Syria, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Vietnam and the United States.
Suzuki said the festival began as an international potluck dinner and has evolved into an event that allows others to learn through dance, music, and informational booths as well as traditional cultural dishes.
UAFS is becoming an increasingly global campus, according to Suzuki. He said UAFS had 50 international students attending classes on campus last year That number has risen to 150 this year. In addition, 150 UAFS students are going to study abroad this year.
Suzuki, said iFest is an outgrowth of the International Studies Committee’s mission to develop strategic and policy advice in the context of the University's desire to secure its position as a leading international university in the 21st century.
“The beauty of this country,” Suzuki said, “is that we minimize our differences and celebrate our similarities. This iFest helps celebrate how we are all alike and yet we are also different.”