CITY HALL — Brand Boulevard will transform into an international street fair this weekend for a celebration of Glendale's cultural diversity.
The ninth annual Unity Fest will take place Sunday, nearly a decade after it was established by former City Councilman Bob Yousefian as a way to embrace diversity and ease ethnic tensions in a city known for its expanding minority populations.
It has since grown to become one of Glendale's landmark civic events, drawing more than 16,000 people last year.
"It's a huge event by any measure," said City Councilman John Drayman, who is co-chairing this year's event with Councilwoman Laura Friedman.
Scheduled to take over North Brand Boulevard between Lexington Drive and California Avenue from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, the event will feature a variety of cultural entertainment, and international food and merchandise.
"A lot of people are not aware about different cultures, the costumes they wear, the food they eat," said Zizette Mullins, community relations coordinator with the city. "It's to really celebrate our diversity, and to see how many groups are here living in the same community."
This year's event will also feature an appearance by entertainer Mario Lopez, best known for his run on 1990s hit sitcom "Saved by the Bell." In recent years, he has appeared as a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars" and as an anchor on the entertainment television show "Extra."
City officials approached Lopez to appear at Unity Fest after learning he was a new Glendale resident.
"A celebrity always brings in a crowd and adds a little flavor to our entertainment," Mullins said.
Also new this year is the addition of several international food trucks, she said
It will be the third year the event will take place downtown after it moved from its original location in Verdugo Park.
"Moving it to Brand Boulevard has been a definite positive," Drayman said. "I think it's very important because it shows off our downtown. It gets the public used to the idea of coming downtown."
Alongside downtown merchants, event vendors will be selling a wide range of food and arts and crafts alongside vendors from the Montrose Shopping Park's weekly "Harvest Market."
Drayman encouraged residents of all ages to check out the event.
"If you live in Glendale and you don't take a chance to come down to this event, you are missing a chance at discovering something really unique in our downtown," he said. "There really is something for everyone at this event."
The event is free to attend. Parking will also be available for free in the Orange Street Garage, 222 N. Orange St.