Walking into the International Festival for the first time can feel a bit like walking through the arrivals gate at Heathrow International Airport.
The Glenn Miller Ballroom was filled to bursting Saturday night as what would become thousands of students and non-students alike came to check out the International Festival where 27 booths represented 27 different countries and cultures.
The festival, which goes from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., is an open and free event to the public as well as CU students. The festival is organized each year by the festival committee, a student group that anyone who is interested can join.
Waqas Qazi, a 26-year-old aerospace engineering PhD candidate who is one of the many students who organized the International Festival, said he was pleased to see a line at the entrance at 4 p.m. when the festival began.
“This year before opening, we had a queue, which we did not have last year and in the first hour we got around 600 or 700 visitors and last year we only had around 400, so it’s going to be big, probably bigger than last year,” Qazi said.
The event was so popular that festival organizers passed out tickets to each individual who entered the ballroom. As people exited they were asked to drop their ticket into a basket so that organizers could keep track of the number of people inside the ballroom. Lines would begin at the entrance and then slowly move inside every 10 or 20 minutes.
Qazi said he began working with the International Festival last year because it sounded interesting and he wanted to get involved. He said he has stayed involved because it helps him to feel really connected.
“It’s just so much fun organizing it,” Qazi said. “It’s amazing.”
Freshman students Evan Tueller, an 18-year-old humanities and art history major, and Helen Katich, a 19-year-old international affairs and environmental studies major, said they came for the free food, but stayed because of the performances and the diversity.
“I really liked the dancing,” Tueller said.
For Katich, the diversity of the event was more of a draw.
“It’s a nice little tour around the world in one room,” Katich said. “The abundance of diversity is great.”
Diversity is one of the main goals of the International Festival, according to their mission statement.
Recipes for the free food that drew Katich, Tueller and many others to the event are also available online at the International Festival website, where anyone interested can download a cookbook of all the different foods that were available for sampling at the festival.
Francine Kabongo, a 20-year-old sophomore architecture major, said she was at the International Festival for the first time. She came to the event as part of the African Students Association, who had a booth.
Kabongo said the event was great because it allowed them to share their culture and that she thought they would definitely have a booth again next year.
For William Webster, a 21-year-old junior biology major, sharing other cultures is part of why he came to the International Festival for his second time this year.
“I find CU lacks diversity so I like events like this,” Webster said.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Ellie Bean at Beanee@colorado.edu.