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Tour the World for the Price of Trip to El Cajon : Culture: International Friendship Festival to showcase ethnic diversity.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The city of El Cajon is offering those interested in broadening their cultural horizons a package that no airline can match. Would-be travelers need not worry about their luggage or plane tickets, the first International Friendship Festival will have all the details worked out.

The festival, which runs this weekend near El Cajon’s City Hall, celebrates the ethnic diversity of El Cajon by showcasing more than 30 foreign cultures. Visitors to the free festival will be able to speak to foreign nationals, sample exotic foods and see performances by singers, storytellers, musicians, dancers and poets.

Of the 100 booths at the festival, many will be educational. The highlight of the festival will be the two-hour international shows performed Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. The shows, which are nominally priced, will include performances by artists from around the world. The Ballet Folklorico of El Cajon’s sister city of Constitucion, Mexico, will begin the program on both nights.

The festival will also offer a multiethnic fine arts exhibit in the Theatre East reception area, featuring more than 20 artists from around the globe. Zigaloe, an African-American artist, will exhibit three of his Surrealist paintings. “I like the theme, I think it’s wonderful that we’re celebrating diversity,” Zigaloe said. “I’m hoping the festival will reflect the harmony received by people coming together.”

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Olivia Beck, a coordinator of the festival, says the International Friendship Festival is the first multicultural event sponsored by the city of El Cajon. “What we’re hoping is that people will learn something about each other,” Beck said. She expects 15,000 people to attend.

The local El Cajon city school district has been a major contributor in the planning and execution of the festival. The idea for the festival grew out of a multicultural curriculum used by the city’s junior and senior high schools since the late 1970s, and the school program will be reinforced by the festival. Students from the local junior high and high schools will be able to earn extra credit by having their special passports stamped with the word “friendship” in each booth’s native tongue.

The festival’s booths will be staffed by volunteers representing a cultural diversity, many of them El Cajon residents, Beck said. The booths, which are individually decorated, will feature cultural items brought from the volunteers’ homeland. These volunteers will be “giving their knowledge to their new home,” Beck said.

Featured Events of the Festival

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Highlights of the 1991 International Friendship Festival:

FINE ARTS EXHIBIT: Featuring more than 20 ethnic art exhibitors including African-American painter Zigaloe and water-colorist Byron Wooden. Also includes a “hands-on” display of artifacts indigenous to San Diego. Free to the public. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sunday, 12 noon-4 p.m. Location: Theatre East reception area.

SATURDAY SHOWS: From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. the outdoor World Amphitheater and the International Stage will feature free entertainment from Vietnamese Dragon & Fox Dancers and English Handbell Ringers among others.

“International Show ’91" at 7 p.m. will feature the “Samahan Philippine Dance Co.” and other assorted international performers. Cost: $4.

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SUNDAY SHOWS: From noon to 5 p.m. the outdoor World Amphitheater and the International Stage will feature free entertainment from the Japanese Women’s Chorus and American Indian Dancers, among others.

An “International Show ’91" at 2 p.m is produced and directed by Anasa Briggs-Graves, who recently directed “State of the Art Heart” at San Diego’s Bowery theater. Cost: $3.


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