Plano International Festival 2016

A Day to Celebrate Plano’s Many Diverse Cultures

What if you could travel around the world in just six hours? Imagine seeing Scottish Highland Dancers perform, eating authentic Mexican food, shopping for handcrafted European artwork and more in just one afternoon. The City of Plano’s Multicultural Outreach Roundtable actually makes this dream a reality every year at the Plano International Festival at Haggard Park. This year, the 12th annual family-friendly event is taking place October 1 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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photos by Jennifer Shertzer

“We have about 100 countries represented through the different displays, activities and performances at the festival,” said Linda Adler, vice president for the Plano International Festival board for 11 years. “Typically, you would be hard-pressed to experience all of these cultures in one day and in one place. This festival expands people’s horizons and gives everyone an appreciation for the diversity and beauty that is present in Plano.”

Students from PISD march in a flag parade followed by the only outdoor naturalization ceremony in North Texas – where about 50 people will officially become U.S. citizens – to kick off the event. Afterward, stunning international performers dance, play music and wear traditional, colorful clothing all day. And since food is important to every culture (especially Planoites!), eight food trucks will offer everything from fried pies to Mexican vegetarian food.

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Kids love the festival too. Many local organizations host children’s educational activities; kids get special passports to visit booths, get stamps, answer trivia questions and color each country’s flag.

New this year is the screening of “GAURU – Journey of Courage” by Indie Meme, a nonprofit organization in India that creates movies with messages. “The film highlights how people in rural India are really impacted by lack of vision care,” explained Linda. “Even in the U.S. kids don’t always have access to vision care, so we are bringing the Lion’s Club to test kids’ eyesight and provide glasses for kids struggling with vision. It is a very exciting new feature.” The movie screening requires a $5 ticket (available here),  and kids 5 and under can see it for free.

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photo by Charlise Hill-Larson

The festival’s Fitness and Wellness Fair also drives crowds. It is put on with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano as a way for the festival to give back to the community. About 30 organizations participate by providing free health screenings, including dental, mental health, eyesight and lifestyle.

Graciela Katzer, president of the Plano International Festival board for 11 years, is “the driving force and engine behind everything that we do,” according to Linda. Among other responsibilities, Graciela works with city leaders, coordinates volunteers and manages the Zero Waste Initiative that diverts 80% of the festival’s waste from landfills.

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Chances to travel the world do not come often. Especially chances to have this many cultural experiences without ever leaving your hometown. So have fun, eat great food and celebrate the diverse people that make Plano so wonderful.

Plano International Festival >
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