No matter what they call them, cities and towns across the area are gearing up for community-wide gatherings.
The events have a number of things in common, but one stands out: They give people a chance to get outside and mingle with neighbors, and they instill civic pride. Here are some happening around the metro:
International festival of Burnsville July 12
In the early 2000s, Margo Swanson coordinated volunteers for an international festival at Nicollet Junior High in Burnsville.
The festival gave students the chance to showcase projects they’d done about countries around the world. At one point, “We outgrew the space when we introduced a mariachi band to several hundred students all doing ‘the macarena’ in the gym,” she said.
That experience dovetailed nicely with a city effort that arose shortly thereafter to celebrate the city’s growing diversity. It also took the form of a festival celebrating world cultures. She jumped at the chance to help with that, as well, she said.
The annual International Festival of Burnsville started in 2007 after a try-out at the city’s Fire Muster event the year before, said Swanson, who is the festival’s chairwoman.
More than 23 percent of the city’s 61,120 residents are people of color, according to 2013 city information.
That’s where the festival comes in. Swanson, who leads the planning committee, said the idea is that as community members get acquainted and learn from one another, “the stereotyping and isolation will diminish.”
At the festival, people get to know one another through their art, including an exhibit with the theme “Bringing Heritage Home,” live music, ethnic food, presentations, multicultural displays, a “parade of flags,” traditional costumes and various family-friendly activities, she said.
It makes for a vibrant event, which happens at Nicollet Commons Park and the nearby Ames Center, according to Swanson.
Swanson, who is the site lead for the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district’s community education program called Project K.I.D.S. at Edward Neill Elementary, said it’s also a fun way to meet students’ families.
She especially enjoys seeing people approach the giant world map and pinpoint their country of origin. “Whether they’ve been in Burnsville for years or only months, they are proud to call Burnsville home,” she said.
That’s what keeps her involved with the festival each year. It “makes us all better neighbors. While we recognize and explore what makes us culturally different, we’re truly bringing home our heritage and our shared values,” she said.
What: International Festival of Burnsville
Where: Nicollet Commons Park and Ames Center (formerly Burnsville Performing Arts Center)