Irvine Global Village Festival to showcase world cultures

"He who is different from me does not impoverish me — he enriches me. Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves — in Man ... For no man seeks to hear his own echo, or to find his reflection in the glass." - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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An annual event will seek once again to promote understanding between cultures in a festive, family-friendly atmosphere Saturday.

The Irvine Global Village Festival, the city's flagship event, saw more than 20,000 attendees last year. Since its humble start in 1998 as the Multicultural Festival, the event has grown to the point of receiving a 2012 City Cultural Diversity Award from the National League of Cities for its collaborative efforts in promoting cross-cultural understanding.

Diversity awareness will be explored through as many avenues as possible at the festival, including cuisine, arts and entertainment, education, a marketplace, religion, activities and community involvement.

"We are having some wonderful entertainment and welcoming a couple new countries to the exhibit area: Brazil, Egypt and Sudan," said Mya Sanders, city cultural arts and activities superintendent. "We have close to 50 restaurants and we have expanded the peace and anti-violence area to include more mural painting and origami peace cranes for the kids."

The Humanity Unites-hosted Walk for Unity is slated to begin at 9 a.m., while the festival itself runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Logistics this year require that visitors park offsite and use free shuttles from UC Irvine, Main Street and Jamboree Road, and Woodbridge Community Park. Bicycling also is encouraged, with a free bike valet service offered.

More shuttles have been added to assist with the expected increase in demand, Sanders said. Handicapped parking will be available onsite at the San Juan or Civic Center parking lots.

Event organizers also strive to make the festival sustainable, with a focus on reducing, reusing and recycling as much as possible, with the eventual goal of being a zero-waste festival.

Five stages will host 100 live performances this year, ranging from Persian dance and ballet folklórico to English stiltwalkers and Korean drummers. Activity organizations will include taekwondo, muay thai, kung fu and karate; Indian dance; belly dance; capoeira; ballroom dance; and Chinese folk dance.

In the Community Partners Pavilion, 25 local groups like the bicycle club, library, Police Department, animal care center and other organizations will share their programs and services.

Exhibitors representing countries from Asia to Africa to Europe to the Middle East will be on hand, offering everything from Nepalese arts to Kurdish culture.

The Kids Village will be filled with 33 activities like bounce houses, games, sports, origami and crafts, face painting, giant hamster balls, henna painting and puppet shows.

Over in the Global Marketplace, 124 vendors will offer handiwork and gifts that represent all of the cultures represented at the festival.

More than 50 local restaurants will offer tastes of their menus for $1 to $3 each, like the Blackmarket Bakery's famed cakes, Caspian's Persian cuisine, Indian food from Clay Oven, Hawaiian shave ice, crepes, kettle corn and Samoan barbecue.

In the World Religions tent, recruitment is forbidden but education is strongly encouraged. More than two dozen groups representing a variety of faiths will be represented, from all the "major" traditions to Baha'i, Sikh and Daoist.

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Twitter: @TheDailyPilot

If You Go

What: Irvine Global Village Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, with the Walk for Unity at 9 a.m.

Where: Bill Barber Park, Irvine (park offsite and shuttle in)

Cost: Free admission and parking

Information: (949) 724-6606 or irvinefestival.org

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