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    N.O. International Arts Festival: Cultures unite for a common goal

    The 19th Annual International Arts Festival makes its’ return to the Big Easy beginning Wednesday, June 8. The theme for this year is “Live the peace, feel the fun,” and with performances by Tito Puente and Maxi Priest among others, the festival promises to do just that.

    The International Arts Festival is a non-profit organization founded by New Orleans native Ernest Kelly and is designed to promote economic development, community outreach and cultural exchange. The festival is the third oldest and longest running event in Marconi Meadows, the venue for this year’s festival, and the only festival where world cultures meet at one location at the same time.

    According to Kelly, the festival’s commitment to bridging cultures is what keeps it successful year after year.”Each year the festival brings worlds together through music, food and communication,” Kelly said. “This year we’re excited to be able to share with the community good entertainment, good food and good company. We’re strongly committed to bridging cultures.”

    The festival begins with Lip Loc Poetry Lounge at Twi-Ro-Pa, a place where unknown talent from the city of New Orleans can come and express themselves. Following the Lip Loc Poetry Lounge will be the Gallery of Expression exhibits where self-taught artists will have the opportunity to showcase their work.

    Over the course of the next three days, attendees will have the chance to hear the sounds of Morgan Heritage, Neutral Sisters, The Wild Magnolias, and the Best World Music Group of 2003, Bamboula 2000. The highlights of the festival, Latin/Salsa king, Tito Puente and Reggae superstar, Maxi Priest, will be performing some of their greatest and best-known hits for the crowd, with a possible guest appearance from hip-hop great, Common.

    There are also activities for young people. The children’s global playground will include two days of arts and crafts, story telling, a drum circle and a puppet-making workshop. To add to the activities, the first annual Read for Fun program will be established, encouraging kids to read by having celebrities drop in and read selected books to the children.

    By providing a marketplace and shops for arts and crafts, some of the most delicious international food and beverages according to New Orleans Data News Weekly, and a place for people to exchange thoughts and ideas, the International Arts Festival is planning on sticking to the mission of positive cultural discourse.

    “Throughout the years we have been a portal for bridging cultural diversity in New Orleans just by providing a place for people to gather and communicate,” Kelly said.Early bird registration has begun, but for more information and a chance to enter a drawing for free ticket giveaways log on to or call (504) 367-1313.

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    N.O. International Arts Festival: Cultures unite for a common goal