8th annual International Food and Art Festival brings global culture home

Downtown Jackson was alive with excitement Saturday as the 8th annual International Food and Art Festival brought a flurry of foods, vendors, dancers and global culture to the heart of the city.

Vendors from innumerable countries lined Main Street and South Liberty streets with offerings ranging from authentic Turkish desserts to Mexican churros, Japanese ramen and everything in between.

Members of the Mexican delegation walk down the street while playing the drums and waving the Mexican flag as part of the Parade of Cultures during the International Food and Art Festival on Saturday, October 1, 2022, in Jackson, Tenn.
Members of the Mexican delegation walk down the street while playing the drums and waving the Mexican flag as part of the Parade of Cultures during the International Food and Art Festival on Saturday, October 1, 2022, in Jackson, Tenn.

“This day is perfect,” said Jackson City Mayor Scott Conger, as he prepped for the festival’s parade of countries. “It’s a perfect representation of Jackson—I got here earlier today and it was already the largest crowd I’ve ever seen for this event, and it’s not even time to start yet. It’s great to see everyone celebrating diversity and celebrating each other.”

Jackson Mayor Scott Conger, Eduardo Morales and Dr. Sandra Dee, who are organizers and co-creators of the event, Lizzie Emmons, executive director of the Jackson Arts Council, and Madison County Mayor A.J. Massey pose for a picture after presenting proclamations declaring October National Arts and Humanities Month and Global Diversity Awareness Month in Jackson and Madison County during the International Food and Art Festival on Saturday, October 1, 2022, in Jackson, Tenn.
Jackson Mayor Scott Conger, Eduardo Morales and Dr. Sandra Dee, who are organizers and co-creators of the event, Lizzie Emmons, executive director of the Jackson Arts Council, and Madison County Mayor A.J. Massey pose for a picture after presenting proclamations declaring October National Arts and Humanities Month and Global Diversity Awareness Month in Jackson and Madison County during the International Food and Art Festival on Saturday, October 1, 2022, in Jackson, Tenn.

Nineteen countries were represented in the event’s kick-off parade, marching down Main Street with a flurry of beaded skirts, elaborate headpieces and proudly-waved flags of their home countries.

“It’s a beautiful day, full of beautiful people and beautiful cultures,” said Madison County Mayor AJ Massey. “I’m glad Jackson is in Madison County, I’ll certainly say that.

“It’s great to see people that I don’t normally get to see—a lot of people in our community stay in their homes, but I see them here today. It’s great to see people come out of the woodwork to celebrate their culture.”

Children jump into and play with the Japanese flag while walking with the Japanese delegation as part of the Parade of Cultures during the International Food and Art Festival on Saturday, October 1, 2022, in Jackson, Tenn.
Children jump into and play with the Japanese flag while walking with the Japanese delegation as part of the Parade of Cultures during the International Food and Art Festival on Saturday, October 1, 2022, in Jackson, Tenn.

One delegation, representing Mexico, gave a stunning performance of a traditional dance honoring the Virgin Mary.

“We do it for our lady La Virgin de Guadalupe,” said dancer Jackie Mireles, a member of the St. Mary’s Catholic Church. “We start practicing around late July and August, and in December we have a massive nine-day celebration. We dance for her—we do not worship her, but we love to dance for her.”

Participants in the Mexican delegation, who are members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, wear traditional outfits and perform a dance to venerate the Virgin Mary, as part of the Parade of Cultures during the International Food and Art Festival on Saturday, October 1, 2022, in Jackson, Tenn.
Participants in the Mexican delegation, who are members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, wear traditional outfits and perform a dance to venerate the Virgin Mary, as part of the Parade of Cultures during the International Food and Art Festival on Saturday, October 1, 2022, in Jackson, Tenn.

Another parade member, Abigail Gilbert, a delegate for France—expressed her excitement at being involved in the parade.

“I’m a French Major at Union University, so I think this is so cool!” she said. “I’m so glad to be here to experience these cultures.”

Avani Prasad walks down the street with the Indian delegation as part of the Parade of Cultures during the International Food and Art Festival on Saturday, October 1, 2022, in Jackson, Tenn.
Avani Prasad walks down the street with the Indian delegation as part of the Parade of Cultures during the International Food and Art Festival on Saturday, October 1, 2022, in Jackson, Tenn.

Have a story to tell? Reach Angele Latham by email at alatham@gannett.com, by phone at 731-343-5212, or follow her on Twitter at @angele_latham.

This article originally appeared on Jackson Sun: 8th annual International Food and Art Festival brings global culture home