Around the world in two days (Aug. 23-24)

August 19, 2008

The Festival of Nations in Tower Grove Park is always one of the summer’s highlights for our family.  Because I so dearly love international travel and so rarely get the chance nowadays, I love the authenticity of the performers and food vendors and artisans — it feels as if I’m somewhere else when I watch them.  The International Institute uses its clout with immigrants to present their cultures in respectful ways, and the public responds intelligently.  I always come away feeling that two days is much too short.  The festival should be a week, minimum!

Although I’ve never been disappointed in any of the performances I’ve seen, I do find it helpful to check out the detailed online schedule in advance so we time our visit to coincide with shows the kids will get the most out of.  African drumming is a sure-fire favorite, as are the kung fu exhibitions. There are always intriguing demos and workshops too, like the Dia de los Muertos Mexican Sugar Skulls workshop on Sunday (Aug. 24) in Tent 2 at 3 p.m. Now that M. is learning to read, I think he’ll find the Alphabet Soup exhibit fascinating, dealing as it does with the various forms written language takes around the world.

There are 34 food vendors (see a map here), and I sincerely wish I could sample a dish from each of them!  Judging from past years, I can almost guarantee that they will be swarming with customers at mealtimes, so it’s not a bad idea to stagger your visit if possible to avoid lunchtime — or at least to avoid eating at lunchtime!  Also, the dining area is always, always full, and although Tower Grove Park is a perfect picnic destination, it’s hard to juggle gear and food and kids all at once.

Speaking of the park itself, it’s an ideal venue for late-August events, and I don’t know why more festivals don’t take advantage of it (or other city parks) rather than sweltering on the downtown asphalt.  Granted, this year if the weather holds no one will be worrying about the heat!  I’ve got my fingers crossed, particularly since M. and I will be manning the Soulard School info booth for a few hours.  Stop by and say hi (and bring us some food!!).

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