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World Of Nations Festival Spotlights Jacksonville's Diversity

Ryan Benk

Jacksonville residents will get a chance to take a bite of the world this weekend at the city’s annual World of Nations Celebration.

The 23-year-old festival combines traditional music, clothing and food from a variety of countries.

At the main stage of the festival at Metropolitan Park, an entertainer is helping a large group of primary school students work off some of the international food they’ve eaten for lunch.

But the World of Nations Celebration  isn't exactly open to the public just yet. Thursday and Friday are school field trip days, before the event is open to the public Saturday and Sunday. And by the end of the weekend, more than 70,000 people, including 12,000 school children, will have experienced the global celebration.

MORE | Continue to view videos from the event

At the newest tent – Japan — two women are showing kids how to make origami animals. Yoko Lafferty, the tent’s organizer, said she decided to participate in the event after parents of various races, whose children attend Jacksonville Japanese School, asked her to.

“The parents from our school really wanted to introduce our culture to the community here in Jacksonville,” Lafferty said.

Credit Sherry Spearman
World of Nation Celebration this weekend at Metropolitan Park.

Across the crowded field, a group Syrian-American women were taking part in a traditional group dance. One of them is a somewhat-out-of-breath Lin Khatib. She says the event is about more than just good food and dance — it’s about breaking down barriers.

“Unfortunately most of the people in the United States have never heard of Syria prior to, let’s say five years ago. I’m very torn apart to see everybody, whatever they have left in their hearts and knowledge about Syria is so distorted from the real Syria,” she said.

The countries represented at the festival vary from year to year, and Khatib said Jacksonville’s diversity ensures there’s never a shortage of participants.