Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith says the festival in The Square is a celebration of who we are, and a chance for us to get to get to know our fellow citizens.
"It is one of the city's most popular events. It is a celebration of art, culture and lifestyle. It's also a chance to explore our connections to each other and celebrate what is unique about our different cultures."
"Recently, around the world we have seen evidence of what can happen when you do not know your neighbour or you exclude people for no other reason than their culture. The Festival of Cultures is all about overcoming perceived boundaries, reaching out, meeting people, trying different foods and listening to music. It's about opening our eyes to the world, extending our hands in greeting, meeting people and becoming friends," says Mayor Smith.
Every year the Festival of Cultures attracts around 20 ambassadors, emissaries, envoys, diplomats and their families to the city. Mayor Smith says it's a chance for them to meet with Palmerstonians who were born in their respective countries and their families. A Civic Welcome is held for the visiting dignitaries on the Saturday morning and this year they will also be offered the chance to tour Massey University's Food Pilot Plant.
"Palmerston North is the home of FoodHQ and this is a prime opportunity for us to show representatives of many countries what our city has to offer in terms of food science - Something that I believe works in with the Festival of Cultures which is renowned for its great food.
The Festival of Cultures is a free event funded through the Palmerston North City Council's events agency Destination Manawatu and managed by Lancewood Events. Director, Karen Heaphy says the Festival of Cultures begins after dark this Friday night with a Lantern Parade.
" The Parade will boast a sheep lanterns made by REACT, the Rangiwahia, Environmental Arts Centre Trust to mark the Chinese Year of The Sheep. Residents are encouraged to make and bring their own lanterns of any shape or size and take part in the parade, the event starts at 6pm and the parade will start at 8.30pm when it is dark." says Ms Heaphy.
On the Saturday 21 March morning the Civic Welcome for dignitaries is held at 10am. It is followed by the World Food Craft and Music Festival which features food stalls, music, arts and craft, cultural talks, performances and a cultural cuisine show hosted by nationally renowned chefs Nici Wickes and Ray McVinnie. Local and national cultural groups will showcase and perform dancing from their country of origin.
The headline band is Niko Ne Zna from Wellington. His hot and spicy hypnotic melodies are inspired by the Gypsy-soaked Balkan States, http://www.nikonezna.com/. Supporting band is Tauranga's Santiago and the Pulgas Band which features acoustic upbeat Latin grooves and lively music that will get you on to your feet.
On Sunday 21 March, the Embassy of Argentina and Massey University School of Humanities will hold an 'Afternoon in Latin America' which will boast music, food, fashion and wine afternoon (from 4pm) in the Living Room of the City (Palmerston North City Library). The ever popular Latin Club Band, featuring Alda Rezende, Brazilian singer and world music radio dj, will perform.
"It will be a jam packed weekend of events, food, music, art and dance," says Ms Heaphy.
For more information about the Festival of Cultures please visit www.foc.co.nz or look for us on Facebook.