Boise was once home to a monoculture with little, if any, diversity among the 0people living here. But over the last several decades, with an influx of refugees, students from every corner of the U.S. and employees relocating to work at some of Boise's thriving companies, that monoculture has blossomed into a chorus of voices from all walks of life that has redefined the City of Trees. To celebrate as many of those cultures as possible under one umbrella, the World Village Fest—an event filled with art, food, music and most importantly people—began five years ago. The 2019 edition will take place Friday, June 21, through Sunday, June 23, at Cecil D. Andrus Park in downtown Boise.
World Village Fest is the brainchild of Global Lounge, a Boise nonprofit established in 2006 with a mission to build communities through thoughtful cultural preservation, education, integration and the promotion of cultural awareness.
"Global Lounge is very interested in creating bridges across various communities," said Global Lounge Director of Community Outreach and Communication Donna Kovaleski about starting the event. "Our goal was to help people be more comfortable with the diversity and gain a curiosity and understanding of people who now call Idaho home. We wanted to create a space where people could come together and get to know the cultures of people who now live here."
- Global Lounge
Creating a safe space was of utmost importance for the founders of the event, especially considering how many new Americans in Boise are here as a result of refugee resettlement, which began in the 1970s. Today, Idaho has four refugee settlement agencies, and myriad other organizations support refugees. During the 1990s, many from Bosnia-Herzegovina came to Boise as refugees. To help the community gather and maintain their traditions, the cultural group Mladi Behar was started, and it has since performed at numerous events including World Village Fest.
"World Village Fest feels like it's where we belong," says Maya Duratovic, a performer in the group. "It's a place that other organizations like ourselves are performing and we can relate to them and they can relate to us through our struggles of trying to keep our culture alive. It feels like family to us."
When Duratovic's family moved to Boise in 1997, hers and other Bosnian-Herzegovinian children's parents would come together and make their costumes while the children practiced dance, something that didn't feel divisive like religion or politics, especially considering where the community had just fled. "We were all recent immigrants to the U.S.," Duratovic said. "We felt it was really nice to have a group of people who could understand you and to do something in the community to show where you come from."
The three-day festival, which usually attracts roughly 7,000 people, includes participants from around the world, including Mexico, the Basque country, Portugal, China, Japan, the Philippines, Bosnia, numerous African nations, Laos, North and South America, the Middle East, India and Greece, as well as Native Americans.
- Global Lounge
A few musical performances will take place over the weekend, including headliners Mykal Rose with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare (Grammy-award winning legends performing Jamaican roots reggae), Rising Appalachia, a collection of sounds, stories and songs, and La Misa Negra from Oakland performing a unique blend of heavyweight cumbia and high-energy, Afro-Latin music.
Over the weekend, five aerosol artists from Boise's Sector Seventeen artist collective will work on 20 paintings for a silent auction.
The Cross Cultural Film Theatre will feature live action films made by local Latinx children. There will also be interactive children's art and hands-on cultural activities for all ages. World Village Artist in Residence, Amiri Osman, a Master Batik artist from Africa, will be in attendance. Over the weekend, there will be over 30 free multi-cultural dance, music and literary performances, retail vendors and food from around the world.
"My favorite part of the event is the interaction I see; multiple generations come to one event and there's something for everyone," Kovaleski said. "My favorite part is just seeing the joy and delight of people getting engaged with culture. It's just really nice to be a part of people that care about culture and want to embrace it in all ways."