After a year of planning after it was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Keene International Festival is back.
The festival will be held Saturday at the Keene Recreation Center at 312 Washington St. from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A free, family-friendly event, the festival will offer a variety of activities and shows for all ages.
The festival was first organized in 2017 by a group of educators in collaboration with community organizations in the Monadnock area. Over 500 people attended the first festival in 2018, and there were around 1,000 participants in 2019. The festival committee is co-chaired by local educators Elizabeth Nieuwsma-Dell and Ritu Budakoti, and other partners of the area such as the Keene Public Library, Keene Parks & Recreation and the Historical Society of Cheshire County have helped bring the festival to life.
Nieuwsma-Dell said COVID, while offering its own set of challenges, didn’t affect the festival as much as they thought.
“We had no concerns from our vendors or artists, and the event is completely outdoors this year, which helps a lot,” said Nieuwsma-Dell. “We are following all local and state protocols, and we will have signage throughout the event reminding people of social distancing. “
This year will feature more than 30 different music and dance performances, artisans, games and crafts for attendees to engage and connect with each other, according to a press release.
One of the main goals of the festival is to give people the opportunity to learn more than the tip of what Nieuwsma-Dell calls “the cultural iceberg”.
“Often people only experience tangible things by discovering a new culture: the activities, the food, the different artists. We hope to provide a space for people to see what’s underneath by connecting with people from different cultures, listening to their values and their stories.
Participants can also experience a global market at the event, where local artisans will showcase and sell their works. Some of the vendors will sell products such as Finnish bark handicrafts, Indian jewelry and clothing, Peruvian dolls, etc. Participants can participate in various activities and games, such as Japanese origami, mehendi, and rakhi amulet making, among many others.
New this year is a demonstration of Silambatam, which is an ancient form of self-defense from India and is known to be one of the oldest forms of martial arts in the world. Other performances include Jamaican group Dis-n-Dat, Nepalese dance by Nepalese students from Keene State College, and Indian Bollywood dance presented by the Keene India Association.
An essential part of the festival is its variety of food vendors, and this year will feature local restaurants Yahso Jamaican Grille and Royal Spice. There will also be snacks and drinks from around the world thanks to the Keene International Market. To complement the cuisine available, The Finnish Mama will offer a selection of Finnish baked goods, and the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George will return with homemade baklava.
The event is supported by the Walpole Savings Bank and the Gallup Fund, with additional support from the Keene Human Rights Committee, the Keene India Association, People’s Linen and the Main Street America Group.
More information is available on the International Keene Festival website or Facebook page, or by contacting KIF Marketing Coordinator Jennifer Carroll at 352-1895.