Mississippi State University’s historic Drill Field will be filled with the vibrant sights and fragrant smells of cultures from all around the world this Saturday.
MSU’s 29th annual International Fiesta will feature almost 50 different booths showcasing a variety of cultures through arts and crafts, decorations, homemade food, interactive activities for children and an exciting roster of cultural performances.
The International Fiesta, sponsored by the Starkville World Neighbors Association and the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center, will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"International Fiesta is basically a place where not only student groups and people from the campus, but the community members will come to share their culture through different ways," program coordinator Kei Mamiya said.
David Houston, an MSU marketing senior, said the International Fiesta is Starkville’s largest gathering of the international community.
"This thing is a community event," Houston said. "It’s not just students, so you’ll see a bunch of people out there. Probably the most international students and people in one place in Starkville."
Houston, who grew up in Honduras, said of all his years coming to the International Fiesta, he had not seen Honduras represented, and wanted to change that.
He talked to several other Hondurans and Americans who wanted to help, and applied for a booth. The booth, called "Catracho Corner" after the slang word for Hondurans in Spanish, will showcase the Honduran culture through decorations and traditional Honduran dishes. A local Hispanic store will help provide the food, which is a great picture of the community participation and support in the event.
Houston said the International Fiesta showcases a range of diversity many do not realize exists in Starkville.
"I’m excited because it shows that Starkville is diverse," Houston said. "People outside of Starkville wouldn’t think that, and even people inside of Starkville wouldn’t think that, but that is proof that it is. It’s just a very welcoming and open-minded atmosphere."
Mariam Khmaladze, a recent MSU graduate, will represent the Republic of Georgia at the International Fiesta.
"Not many people know what Georgia is," Khmaladze said. "When I say I’m from Georgia, they say, 'Wow your accent sounds different,' and I say, 'No, no, not that Georgia, there is a country called Georgia.' I know it’s really tiny and small and not significant for the world, but for me, it means the world because that is my home, so I really would like for people to be aware of my country."
The Georgian booth will have homemade food, decorations and a cardboard cutout of traditional Georgian clothing. Khmaladze will also perform a traditional Georgian dance on the stage.
Mamiya said he is excited for the event because of his international roots.
"Because I’m also from a different country, it’s really nice to see people excited about showcasing their culture to those who are not familiar with their culture," Mamiya said. "They’re excited to wear their traditional clothes, and they want people to try their dishes, they want people to see their performances. I really like seeing people really excited about being who they are and bringing their cultures here."
Houston said the event is immensely beneficial for students because it is a way for them to open their minds to other people and ways of life without having to leave.
"Students should attend because it’s always good to make your world bigger, and this is a way to do it without having to leave where you live," Houston said. "There’s always something beneficial about making your world a little bigger, and maybe making friends that believe different things than you, their culture is different. I always think it makes you a better person and makes your world better, and you’re able to understand people better."
Mamiya pointed out that a broader cultural understanding is beneficial for students’ success after graduation.
"I think in this modern society, if students graduate from here you never know where they end up," Mamiya said. "Maybe they start working somewhere that has much more diversity than here, or they might end up working in a different country. In addition to what they’re studying here, I think it’s important to open up their perspectives from different lenses and different backgrounds, so I really want students exposed to something different that they have never seen or experienced, so that they can think differently and think critically."