Five years after inception, cultural celebration continues to bring together neighbors from near and far.
World Fest is a standing invitation for Blaine residents to come out and meet their neighbors.
This Saturday's event is the fifth annual gathering, intended to highlight and celebrate the city's growing diversity, through food, music and entertainment.
"It's growing bigger each year because we've had such a change in our city from around the world, and we'd decided to do something to pull them together," said Blaine Mayor Tom Ryan. "It's a lot of fun."
The first Blaine World Fest, held in 2008, was initiated after several residents approached Ryan about a community gathering in the wake of several racially motivated incidents, including a suspected arson fire at a convenience store and allegations of Muslim extremism at the TIZA charter school in Blaine. In the weeks that followed, Ryan said at the time, he learned more about the fear that members of different ethnic groups hold for each other. And it became increasingly obvious that change couldn't wait.
Since 2000, the number of ethnic minorities in the rapidly growing city has increased from 7 percent of the population to more than 17 percent in 2010.
Prad Das, a nine-year Blaine resident and a member of the city's Park Advisory Board, said he remembers a time when he felt invisible in the city.
A native of India, he said he felt isolated.
"People were not likely to interact or talk to each other," he said. Now, it's different. "I feel like I see the eyes of the human. They have welcoming eyes, and respect also."
Events like World Fest have a role, he said, recalling the time he ran into a neighbor who was tapping his foot to the time of some German music.
"I said, 'Hey, so, do you know this?'" He said, 'Yeah my grandfather is from here.' Unless I know someone, it's hard for me to approach them. There's no such kind of process where people introduce themselves and explain what is their culture."
The same goes for the city's trails and parks, he said, and anytime people come out of their homes and meet face-to-face.
Tom Godfrey, Blaine Park and Recreation program supervisor, said as diversity grows in the city, he's seen a value for every ethnic group.
"The idea behind the event is to get everyone mingling and learning more about the cultures that exist in the city now," he said. "It's everyone, not just the majority white population learning about their culture, but vice versa."
This year's World Fest will include Chinese, Mexican, Appalachian, Caribbean and Irish music and dance, among others, and food from India, Italy, Germany, Mexico and different regions of the United States.
Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409