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International Taste Festival Food

Entertainment, Family Fun

A friend has a passion: cultural festivals. He can never wait for the festival season to kick off every year in the Syracuse area. He’d often dress the part so he could enjoy the food, music, culture, art, and sense of “being” that only an event dedicated just to the enjoyment of an ethnic group could bring. Needless to say, when “sick” season curtailed “festival” season, he was sorely disappointed.

I had learned, too, as I read M.C. Antil’s Floor Burns, which is now available and reviewed in these pages some months back, how waves of immigrants had shaped the neighborhoods, factories, churches, and pubs of Syracuse over the years, each bringing a distinct “flavor” to one small city.

Many of these festivals will continue – but one, “Festival of Nations,” had a certain pride of place as it was held each year at the War Memorial, bringing together any
and all ethnic groups to celebrate together in one, big, diverse, delightful way. It was discontinued in the 80s, and while, as noted, Syracuse continues its proud tradition of festivals, a void was created when the “all at once” event ceased.

Coming in April, the “International Taste Festival,” a fresh, new take on a gathering that comes in many different flavors, will debut in the Central New York area.

Stephanie Pestillo, the International Taste Festival event planner, worked with a diverse team to bring the event together, as she explained what inspired the creation of the festival. She explained, “I’m from the CNY area, and I appreciate just how wonderfully diverse our community is. With so many limits placed on the dedicated festivals in the past two years, we thought the time was right to come together and to bring together the many different communities and cultures, all in one location. Foods of the Americas, Tastes of Europe, Asian Creations, Middle Eastern Treats, and Pan-African Cuisine, and so much more – there is truly something for everyone to enjoy at the International Taste Festival!” Another feature of the festival is the $2 ‘tastes’ of the various cuisines – or you can choose to get a full portion of your favorites at regular menu prices. It’s up to you, graze, or try to pick just one!

“Part of the event is the 5k/10k Taste Fest Race to be held on Saturday, April 9th – you can check the Facebook Festival Page for registration information. Winners will be announced between 12:30 pm and 1:00 pm on Saturday. There will be 5k and 10k Overall and Masters Overall M/F Awards, and Age Group M/F Awards in both 5k and 10k as well.”

Stephanie stressed that not only is Central New Yorkers “hungry” for some favorite worldwide cuisine and ethnic gifts and treats, but many of the dedicated musicians and performers haven’t been able to show off their beloved arts to the community for many months – but the Festival’s lineup of entertainment is sure to be a feast for the ears and eyes, as well as the taste buds.

So as you snack your way through the Expo Center, you will no doubt be distracted by the many and varied talents of the music, dancing, and performance styles on display.

You’ll be “piped” in at noon on Saturday by the Syracuse Highland Pipe Band, Celtic entertainment featuring a 22 member team putting on piping and drumming performance that will start your weekend off, as only the bagpipes can.

Later, St. Sophia’s Orthodox Church Dancers, a group with a 50-year tradition performing at the June Festival in DeWitt, will show off their steps and costumes, followed by the Central Bellydance School of Syracuse – a blend of Middle Eastern folkloric dance, to American Cabaret to improvisational fusion.

The talented Rince Na Sonas Irish Dancers will perform. Enjoy traditional Irish music, along with traditional moves to contemporary music.

The India Community Religious and Cultural Center celebrates the spring season with classical, folk, and fusion performances that narrate the stories of India with costumes, music, color, and dance.

Then stay for Alex Torres & His Latin Orchestra and dance a little Salsa and Merengue (if you dare) to work off some of those treats you’ve been enjoying all afternoon.  The festival will close Saturday night with a Fireworks Display at 9 pm.

But if you thought you’d seen it all, you won’t have unless you come back on Sunday to enjoy trying your hand at making music yourself: Music is Art invites you to try your “hand” at drumming – whatever age or level of skill.

The Vietnamese Community of Syracuse will perform, as will La Familia de la Salsa Dance Company, and Chris Thomas & His Smoke Dancers will perform the song and dance that shared the stories and lore of the Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca Nations.

Stephanie added a big “thank you” to the team of community members who have stepped up to make the festival come together: Tai Shaw of the Syracuse Vietnamese Community, Hugo Acosta of CNY Latino, James Corl, LeMoyne College attendee, and Sanjeev Kumar of the India Community Religious and Cultural Center. Also, a “thank you” to the NYS Fairgrounds for supporting this diverse event in the area.

It would be hard to think of a better way to enter into what everyone hopes will be
a re-surgent “Festival Season” here in Central New York. With all your favorite sights, sounds, and tastes on display (nearly every weekend of the spring, summer, and fall!) and to enjoy in the celebration of the many ways that Syracuse and Central New Yorkers share in what makes this community so special.

Saturday April 9th, 2022 12:00 – 9:00
Sunday April 10th, 2022 12:00 – 7:00

Tickets: $5 advance, $10 at door, Kids under 10 Free!Free Parking

NYS Fairgrounds – Exposition Center


Stephanie Pestillo: 315-882-1215

Nancy Roberts
Writer, voice over artist, information achitect, very curious person.