Wheeling to host annual International Festival Aug. 18

Wheeling is a melting pot of different cultures, and the Wheeling Park District is getting ready to celebrate that diversity at the Wheeling International Festival.

On Sunday, Aug. 18, groups representing more than 18 ethnicities will gather at the Heritage Park Performance Pavilion for six hours of music, dancing, food and games.

This is the festival's fourth year. The park district worked with Indian Trails Library District to plan it, and with their help, the event grew to include some new organizations and demonstrations.

“Our community is fortunate to have a wide range of ethnicities from around the world,” park district Communications Superintendent Juan Carlos Acevedo said. “There are many groups and individuals that promote their cultural heritage through music, dance, art and food. We want to provide a space where we are able to showcase this amazing representation, and where our community can learn from each other.”

The musical performances kick off at 1 p.m. with Sounds of Israel. Over the next six hours, performers from many countries will offer cultural presentations, including Tlaxcala, flamenco, Indian fusion, Filipino Tinikling, ballet folklorico, mariachi, Polynesian Hokule'a and Scandinavian music and dance.

At the same time, in the activity tent, there will be demonstrations that allow people to take traditional dance lessons from various cultures. At 1 p.m., a flamenco dancing lesson is available. At 1:30 p.m., it's a Cumbia lesson, and at 2 p.m. instructors will offer Scandinavian dancing lessons.

At 2:30 p.m., there's a Bollywood performance; 2:35 p.m., performers will put on a Brazilian percussion demonstration; 3:05 p.m., it's a Bhangra demonstration; 3:35 p.m., an Indian Maharashtra dance performance; 4:40 p.m., a Kathak dance performance; 4:50 p.m., a hip-hop dance lesson; 5:20 p.m., a classical Bharatanatyam dance; 5:25 p.m., a salsa dancing lesson.

Community Relations Manager Haley O'Brien said the artistic performances provide a fun way to learn about different cultures.

“People should come so that they can join in celebrating our diverse community,” she said.

The festival features activities specifically geared toward children, as well. There will be inflatable soccer darts, face painting and various games for kids.

As for food, participating culinary vendors include Mexcal, Mario's Cart, Kona Ice, Rivaj, Three Legged Taco and Brain Freeze.

One staple of the event is its community involvement. A wide range of community organizations will participate in the festival, including Bach to Rock, District 214 adult education, the Family Learning Program, Hana Center, Harper College, HIAS Chicago, Indian Trails Public Library, Link Together Coalition, Lions Club of Buffalo Grove, the North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic, OMNI Youth Services, the Russian School of Mathematics, the Wheeling Police Department, YWCA Chicago and the Rotary Club.

Acevedo said the festival is a great opportunity for families to experience the cultural richness of Wheeling in a safe setting.

“People should attend this event to learn more about the diversity of our community in a family-friendly setting full of music, dance, art and overall fun,” he said.

Kona Ice will be one of the food vendors at the Wheeling International Festival on Sunday, Aug. 18. Courtesy of Coady Photography

Fourth annual Wheeling International Festival

When: 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18

Where: Heritage Park Performance Pavilion, 201 Community Blvd., Wheeling

Admission: Free

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