Festival Saturday to showcase Kent’s many cultures

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Yelana Kovalsky wants to carry on a tradition when she sings Ukrainian folk songs June 27 at the first Kent International Festival.

Kovalsky has sung at many festivals in the Seattle area since she moved to Kent from the Ukraine 15 years ago. Now she will get a chance to perform in her own town.

“There are a lot of Ukrainian people around,” Kovalsky said in a phone interview Friday. “I want them to know it’s important to keep our songs alive.”

Kovalsky will be one of more than 20 performers at festival. It runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Town Square Plaza Park, downtown at the corner of West Smith Street and Second Avenue. Kovalsky sings at 6:15 p.m.

Besides Kovalsky, other musicians, dance groups, martial artists and storytellers are among the performers. Everything from hip-hop groups, brass bands, Irish dancers and African dancers.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Kovalsky said of the festival, which is Kent’s first. “There a lot of different people who live in Kent. We have many nationalities who live together in peace.”

Kent4Health, a group of residents and businesses that encourages healthy choices for physical, mental, spiritual and environmental wellness, organized the festival to showcase the region’s talent.

Harpreet Gill, the owner of East Hill Indian eatery Punjab Sweets, also stepped forward to help kick off the festival.

“This is something Kent has needed for a long time because we have such a diverse community,” said Gill, whose own family hails from India. “The fact that got to me is that 120 languages are spoken in the Kent School District. We want people to appreciate the cultures and traditions we have.”

Organizers plan to feature arts and crafts booths and as well as authentic cuisine.

The type of food available from vendors will include Punjab (India), Thai, European, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Filipino and Vietnamese.

“For a lot of the food vendors it’s their first time out as a vendor,” said Pam Clark, an organizer. “They wanted to be a part of it.”

Shamso Issek looks forward to the food items as well as the variety of performers. Issek is the community organizer for the Somali Bantu Community Center dance group of Kent. The Somalian dancers perform at 7:15 p.m.

“It’s really great,” Issek said of the first International Festival in Kent. “I’ve lived here since 2001 and this is the first time for our community to perform. We would like people to know us and that we are part of Kent. We are very excited and can’t wait.”

The regions of the world to be represented at the festival include the Americas (North, South and Central America), the Asian Pacific Islands, Western and Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.

The festival will run in conjunction Saturday with the Kent Farmer’s Market. The market runs every Saturday at Town Square Plaza Park from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information go to www.kentinternationalfestival.com or call 253-856-4968.

LEARN MORE

What: Kent International Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Town Square Plaza Park, Second Avenue and Smith Street

Cost: Free


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