The International Street Festival returns in person and highlights cultural diversity at UGA | Arts & Culture


Hundreds of students, community members and visitors gathered on the promenade of the Tate Center on Saturday to celebrate the in-person return of the International Street Festival. The festival highlights the cultural diversity that exists within the University of Georgia and the Athens community as a whole.

Hosted by the Department of International Student Life, the event featured everything from a performance by the Kenya Safari Acrobats to authentic South American cuisine. Members of UGA’s Filipino Student Association, dressed in long red skirts and white blouses, performed a traditional folk dance known as Tinikling in which dancers straddle tall bamboo poles to an energetic beat .

“The festival really brings together all the diverse cultures [of UGA] whole. I didn’t realize how diverse our campus was until today,” said FSA member Michelle Pham.

Participants walk the path of the Zell B. Miller Learning Center at the International Street Festival on April 9, 2022 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Sophie McLeod)

The festival welcomed visitors of all ages – catering to children with craft tables and a face painting booth. With hands covered in glue and glitter, the children created garlands of international flags, traditional European paper dolls, African jewelry and more. Asked about her favorite part of the event, 4-year-old Loretta Stafford enthusiastically replied, “The henna tattoos!

The smell of fried dumplings and Mediterranean potatoes wafted across the Tate lawn as attendees lined up to sample dishes from various countries. Local restaurants such as Mediterranean Grill ensured that no one was left fasting. People glued themselves to their overflowing plates as the various vendors provided them with a second serving.

“I’m from Malaysia and one of the most important things that reminds me of my home is my mum cooking food for me. Going to all the food stalls is so fun and feels like home,” Jin said. Lee, a sophomore at UGA.

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People play football at the University of Georgia Bookstore at the International Street Festival on April 9, 2022 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Sophie McLeod)

During the festival, a small football game started outside the UGA bookstore, immediately attracting people of all ages and skill levels. Strangers became friends with each new round, and that was especially true for UGA sophomore Caleb Kerr.

“I came to meet a friend but he never showed up. I just met these guys,” Kerr said, pointing to his teammates on the lawn. “I stayed for all the awesome performances and food. It’s great to see things that I normally don’t have time to go see or wouldn’t get involved in if I hadn’t been to this festival.

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A participant poses at the International Street Festival on April 9, 2022 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Sophie McLeod)

While food and games were widely enjoyed, nothing brought people together like music. Chinese ballads, catchy Mexican anthems and America’s top 40 hits played throughout the event, creating a sense of togetherness among the crowd as heads bobbed and feet tapped in unison.

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A participant paints the face of another participant at the International Street Festival on April 9, 2022 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Sophie McLeod)

Minutes after receiving his Alumni Achievement Award from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UGA alum Swagata Banerjee revisited his old stomping ground at the Tate to enjoy the festival for the first time since the graduation in 2004. A lifelong musician with performances with the New York Philharmonic under his belt, Banerjee felt at home hearing music from his culture and other cultures.

“Music is the universal language. Music and culture mean everything to me. I’ve seen that throughout my career working with the Nashville Songwriters Association and my own band, the Ban Brothers,” Banerjee said.

As the event began to wind down and families made their way to their cars in packs, the various groups of students who organized the event embraced each other, capping the festival’s in-person return.


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