Kearney, Ne. — You don’t need a passport for this world tour.
The 41st annual Scott D. Morris International Food and Cultural Festival allows attendees to travel the globe without leaving south-central Nebraska.
The free event, scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Sunday (March 4) in the Health and Sports Center at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, will feature delicious cuisine, entertaining performances, informational booths, games and activities representing a variety of countries. It’s open to both UNK students and the public and hosted by the university’s International Student Association.
Katy Anielak, president of the UNK International Student Association, said the festival gives people an opportunity to learn about other cultures and connect with new people.
“Considering we’re in central Nebraska, there’s not as much opportunity to experience different cultures here,” she said. “This allows people to experience many different cultures in one place.”
Attendees can sample food prepared by students from Germany, Japan, South Korea, China, Oman, Nepal and India and take in traditional songs and dances from China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Nepal and Oman. Additional countries will be represented through booths with games, activities and information.
Omar Al Naamani, a second-year UNK student from Oman, hopes people attending the festival will learn about his home country and its people.
“We have to share our culture so people know more about us,” he said. “We need people to come to Oman and see how it’s beautiful.”
He’s part of a group that will perform a traditional dance from the Middle Eastern country that’s usually on display at weddings and other special events. Their booth will have Omani clothes, coins and other items.
Kewen Shen, an exchange student from China spending one semester at UNK while studying preschool education, is another performer.
She’ll play the guzheng, a string instrument with a history dating back more than 2,500 years.
Shen, who started learning the instrument 14 years ago and practices for at least an hour each day, said her goal is to showcase traditional Chinese culture while meeting people from across the world.
She called the International Food and Cultural Festival an “excellent opportunity” to connect with new people.
The family-friendly event typically brings around 2,000 to 2,500 people to the UNK campus and more than 150 students volunteer at the festival.
Anielak, a junior history major from Omaha, appreciates the opportunity to bring more cultural awareness to the area.
“In our global community, it is important to respect and learn about all of the different cultures around the world,” she said. “Hopefully, this will lead to our community becoming more united and understanding of one another.”
The International Food and Cultural Festival is sponsored by Scott Morris and Morris Printing Group of Kearney, UNK LoperNites, Chartwells and the UNK Office of International Education.