Take a stroll through the DuPage Children's Museum in Naperville and you'll get a pretty good idea of the area's many cultural differences and languages.
It's something to cherish and celebrate, say organizers of this year's 15th annual International Festival, which runs noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13, at North Central College's Merner Field House, 450 S. Brainard St.
If you goWhat: International Festival
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13
Where: North Central College's Merner Field House, 450 S. Brainard St., Naperville
Cost: $5, children 3 and younger free
Info: (630) 637-5132 or northcentralcollege.edu
The children's museum will participate in the festival for the first time.
"The museum is a really good ethnic melting pot here for people to come and visit," said Alison Segebarth, director of marketing and membership. "Our audience is so internationally based."
That's true of the entire community, and it's the primary reason the International Festival has continued to thrive and grow, organizers say.
"Naperville is much more multicultural than many people realize," said Jack Shindler, director of international programs and professor of English at North Central. "International Festival is primarily aimed at educating young folks. It's our major community outreach on behalf of international community awareness."
A collaboration between the college and the Rotary Club of Naperville, the event includes ethnic dancing and music, authentic cuisine, games and crafts from around the world and the opportunity to learn a bit of another language in 30-minute immersion rooms.
Naperville Mayor George Pradel and North Central College President Harold Wilde help open the day's events with an international flag ceremony.
Activities include a Chinese lion dance and interactive booths sponsored by community organizations.
Several new organizations will appear at the festival, including the children's museum, which will feature some of its portable play exhibits such as the oversized tinker toys.
The museum also will feature its Marc Chagall for Children exhibit, an interactive learning tool that teaches about the Russian artist's work with hands-on components.
Children can get lost in another language with the 30-minute immersion rooms. They can choose from French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Italian, Polish, Spanish and Arabic -- largely taught by native speaking North Central students.
No English is spoken during the immersion experience, said Kelly Pilleux, North Central's international student adviser.
People learn colors, numbers, greetings and something about the culture -- all taught in the chosen language.
"Some of the kids have not ever met someone from another country," Pilleux said. "It's great to meet someone who speaks another language and then to see that they're just like them."
Participants must register in advance to take part in the immersion rooms. To sign up, contact Bessma Shammas at (630) 637-5132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Sister Cities Commission of Naperville will introduce Naperville's newest Sister City, Pátzcuaro, Mexico. In addition, several of the college's ethnic clubs will feature games and demonstrations.
International cuisine will be for sale from Belgio's Catering, ranging in price from $2 to $5.50. There also will be a raffle and prizes for downtown Naperville dining experiences.
Doors open at 11:45 a.m. Admission is $5 and children 3 and younger are free.
All proceeds help fund North Central scholarships for international study. Visitors are encouraged to bring a nonperishable food item to donate to the Loaves and Fishes Community Pantry.
For information, call (630) 637-5132 or visit northcentralcollege.edu.