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FlintFest will maintain international flavor

Nneka Osakwe is the director of Global Programs at Albany State University.

Nneka Osakwe is the director of Global Programs at Albany State University.

— The all-day Oct. 1 downtown throwdown by the Flint River is being touted as the city’s first FlintFest.

What organizers — particularly organizers with the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau — want citizens to remember is that the festival’s official title is the Flint Music and International Fest ... with emphasis on “International.”

The CVB has hosted the city’s International Festival for the past two years (and the forerunner Hispanic Festival a year before that), and its staff is quick to point out that the combined international/music festival will not detract from the international-themed events supporters and participants have come to expect.

“Some of the (International Festival’s) supporters were leery at first, but they’ve seen that we’re working just as hard as ever to make that portion of FlintFest as entertaining as it’s always been,” the CVB’s Teresa Smith said. “Nothing’s been phased out; in fact, our portion of the festival will be enhanced this year.

“In addition to the entertainment and cuisine that we’ve had in the past, we’ve added new elements this year that will make the international festivities even more attractive. We’ve added an arts and crafts contest and an informational/educational element that we believe visitors will enjoy.”

Seventeen classes in the Dougherty County School System created unique displays that will showcase the culture of a chosen country. Those classes’ displays will be judged by a panel that will determine which wins a coveted blue ribbon and a pizza party for participants.

Global ambassadors from Albany State University’s Global Programs department have created informational displays that will offer festival attendees a glimpse at the culture of more than 40 of the world’s countries. ASU’s involvement in the International Festival is being headed by Global Programs Director Nneka Osakwe.

“A lot of the things we’re doing in our Global Programs department are things we’re anxious to share with the people of Albany,” Osakwe, a native of Nigeria but now a “proud citizen of Albany,” said. “We thought doing a collaborative event (with festival organizers) would be an appropriate way to showcase those experiences.

“(International Festival participation) is similar to a ‘cultural explosion’ event we’re planning (at Albany State) during International Week.”

Students in ASU’s Global Programs study abroad in such countries as England, Spain, Russia, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago. Osakwe said officials at the university are trying to set up a study-abroad program in China.

Performers from throughout the region will provide musical and dance entertainment on FlintFest’s second stage, which will be located at the CVB’s welcome center. Scheduled on the stage are a cultural dance by Sherwood Acres Elementary students at 2 p.m.; Spanish singing/cultural dance at 2:30 p.m. by International Studies Elementary students; Zumba dance by the YMCA at 3 p.m.; cultural, Latin and Indian dances by Westover High School students, ASU students and Dougherty High students at 3:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 4:45 p.m., respectively.

Following the arts and crafts awards presentation at 5 p.m., the South Georgia Okinawa Club will present a drum performance at 5:30 p.m., followed by Indian dance from Ganesh Kasam (6 p.m.), Zumba from the Y (6:45 p.m.), an African dance from the Ngozi Dance Company (7:15 p.m.) and hip-hop music from Garrett Snider (7:45 p.m.).

Musical entertainment provided by a number of local and area artists will start at noon at FlintFest’s Stage 1, which will be located near the Flint in Riverfront Park.

Exhibitions at the festival will showcase Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Jamaica, Australia, Japan, Africa and the United States, among other countries.

Yoshiko Kemp, president of the local Okinawa Club, said her club members will feature original dance from her native land and original Okinawan cuisine.

“I am still part of the Okinawa Club in Atlanta, but since that is such a long way to go, a few of us started a local club,” Kemp said. “We usually met at different houses and had a covered dish lunch. Columbus had an International Festival that we participated in, and when we heard they were planning one in Albany, we decided to join with them.

“We are always looking for more people to join our club, so anyone who is interested in Okinawa culture or history — not just natives — is invited to join us. They may see me at the festival or call (229-776-5038).”

Smith said vendors selling food — international and American — arts and crafts, hand-made items and art would be a part of FlintFest. There will also be a petting zoo, bouncy houses, kids games and a mechanical bull for the more adventurous.

Admission to the all-day festival is $5, while children 10 and under will be admitted free.