'A mini United Nations': Plano International Festival returns to Haggard Park next weekend
Photos courtesy of Plano International Festival -- Plano children get an earful of culture at the 2011 Plano International Festival, which drew nearly 15,000 visitors to Downtown Plano's Haggard Park. The festival returns to the park for its eighth year Oct. 13.
The Plano International Festival will bring the sights, smells and sounds of the international world to Haggard Park for its eighth year on Oct. 13.
Featuring live music, food, vendors and children's activities representing cultures from around the globe, the festival will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The festival will kick off with a parade of more than 80 national flags representing the diverse international roots of Plano's 270,000 residents, led by the Sons of the American Revolution and Plano Police Department.
Graciela Katzer, president of the Plano International Festival Corporation, said the event is like arriving at a "mini United Nations in Haggard Park."
"The mission of the organization is to organize an event where we can celebrate the cultural diversity we have in Plano and the surrounding area," Katzer said. "The mission of the festival is to educate and enlighten and enrich the multicultural experience of the citizens of the area."
After the parade, a proclamation will be delivered by Mayor Phil Dyer, followed by a keynote speech by Robbie Robinson, honorary chair of the festival, who will describe the changing ethnic and racial demographics of Plano. Robinson's decorated 20-year career as a Navy civil engineer led him to design the Legacy Drive business development. During his Navy career he was selected to join President Richard Nixon on his second envoy to a then-heavily insular China.
"I think it's really impressive that we have more than 100 nationalities represented in Plano," he said. "This is the chance to try and build relationships between those communities, build understanding between them and really appreciate the unique opportunity we have."
Immediately afterward, representatives from the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Bureau of Citizen and Immigration Services will naturalize 50 aspiring U.S. citizens.
"It's a very beautiful ceremony," Katzer said. "... The nice thing is that Homeland Security uses the festival as one of very few locations outside of their own headquarters [in Irving], so for us it's an honor that they can come host the ceremony."
From noon until 5 p.m., visitors can enjoy any number of events and attractions, from on-stage music and dance performances representing diverse countries to an international fashion show. As always, food with an international flavor -- ranging from Polish sausage to Caribbean-flavored grilled chicken -- will be available from various vendors.
This year will see an expanded event, with a large section of Avenue H now being taken use by the festival. Nearly 15,000 people came to least year's event, and with 70 booths offering jewelry, clothing and other imports, the event will see a 20 percent upswing in the number of commercial vendors.
"The festival has grown ... I would say, since we started, in the number of participants and in the number of cultures we represent," Katzer said. "... The first festival, I don't remember the exact number, but we didn't even get to 5,000. When the festival started we didn't have the infrastructure that we had volunteers on board, and we have more than 500 volunteers on board the day of the festival."
Robinson said the perspective of those from other cultures help add to the richness and prosperity of communities like Plano, especially when they offer their unique perspective to the community and civic process.
"It can be very, very educational and very enlightening, and very helpful," he said, "so there's a big advantage of having people from other countries participate more in our community, for example on city council, or planning and zoning, or Leadership Plano, or any of the dozens and dozens of charities we have, or business boards."