Featuring a flourishing creative community, a range of picturesque natural vistas, and a diverse selection of cuisine, Columbia is one of South Carolina’s top destinations. From public art displays to world-renowned collections, the city is a must for art lovers. Those looking to experience the art scene should visit the Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, and McKissick Museum. The Capital of South Carolina is also home to an ever-evolving culinary scene. Foodies should check out the Five Points Neighborhood, which is home to favorite restaurants such as Cellar on Greene, Mr. Friendly’s New Southern, and Southern Belly BBQ.
The Columbia International Festival has been celebrating diversity and international cultures for more than 20 years, and it will take place April 14-15 at the State Fairgrounds. The Festival showcases the culture, food, and music of the wide range of nationalities that comprise South Carolina. Event organizers bring people together to celebrate diversity and to build better community and race relations. Attendees will have the opportunity to sample cuisine from countries around the planet including Thailand, China, Venezuela, and more. The Atlanta Chinese Dance Company, Murdani School of Performing Arts, Bangladesh Community of SC, and Bollywood Dance Dreamers will each perform live, dazzling the crowd with unique music and dance performances. National exhibitors from more than 70 countries will showcase and demonstrate a variety of cultural games and art, giving people a taste of their homeland’s national character. Those interested in purchasing unique trinkets, art, and clothing will love the International Bazaar. Here people can buy handmade items from as far away as Russia, Zimbabwe, and more. All attendees should check out the Parade of Nations, which will include representatives from 100 countries displaying their flags and traditional clothing. ResortsandLodges.com Interviewed Event Director, Dr. Raj Aluri, to learn more about this unique multicultural celebration.
RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.
DRA: This is the state’s and region’s largest international event, designated multiple times as One of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
DRA: The Columbia International Festival is a celebration of all of our history and heritage, past and present. This event has 23 years of success, and it has gotten better every year.
RAL: How many annual attendees do you draw?
DRA: This event draws over 20,000 people, and many come from outside our immediate area. This is a significant number for an international, cultural, and alcohol-free event.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?
DRA: It provides a safe and enjoyable environment for all age groups. Plus, it’s affordable.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
DRA: The Columbia International Festival uniquely showcases our region’s multiracial and multicultural cosmopolitan nature. There is no other event as colorful as this one anywhere in South Carolina (I’m talking about the color of people's skin and the color of their costumes and the colorful decorations).
RAL: Take me through a day at the event. What can I expect as an attendee?
DRA: People love spending the entire day at the event because of its delicious and authentic ethnic foods, international cultural entertainment, national/cultural exhibits, international bazaar, and colorful Olympic-style international flag ceremony.
The festival’s Global Education Day draws nearly 2,500 to 3,000 school children and educators together for a unique educational experience. During the two-hour “Travel the World Under Two Roofs,” they interact with their foreign-born neighbors and learn first-hand about world geography, cultures, languages, and history, without even leaving the state!
RAL: Tell us about the overall atmosphere?
DRA: This is an indoor event. It's Alcohol-free, smoke-free, and very family friendly.
RAL: What does this event mean to the community?
DRA: This event benefits everyone with the opportunity to learn more about cultural diversity, appreciate each other’s backgrounds, and develop better relationships. This event enriches and educates everyone in our state.
RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?
DRA: Recognizing the festival’s value to our society and economy, Richland County allocated generous funding every year to market, promote and pay for event rentals and setup. Without the funding from the Richland County hospitality tax pool, there would not a Columbia International Festival.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
DRA: This event defines and promotes who we are as a city, a diverse and vibrant community. This festival brings people together from more than 100 cultural groups in the Midlands to showcase the multicultural nature of our city. It is not one organization putting an event together, but several ethnic/cultural organizations which collaborate for this event.
For more information about the Columbia International Festival, please visit the event website.