The annual Ethnic Expo international festival beginning Friday figuratively brings the world to Columbus’ doorstep.
On some opening nights, it has felt as if much of the globe were visiting, with shoulder-to-shoulder pedestrian traffic in the shadows of Columbus City Hall at First and Washington streets.
But one of the busiest times of the free, two-day event will have more room to roam this year with the festival extending further west on First Street.
“We’re trying to alleviate some of that congestion by spreading out the booths,” said Ali Crimmins, the city’s coordinator of the gathering, which attracts an estimated 30,000 people for food, music, children’s activities and shopping.
Pam Lienhoop, wife of Mayor Jim Lienhoop, suggested extending the festival’s footprint in her role of helping plan the 33rd annual event, presented by First Financial Bank.
The late Barbara Stewart, when serving as the city’s first lady, launched Ethnic Expo in 1984 as a way for Columbus to celebrate its growing ethnic base and build bridges among its cosmopolitan population.
The event, highlighting the host countries of China and Taiwan, will feature 31 food booths with single items starting at about a dollar to complete meals for about $5 or more. Selections vary from General Tso’s chicken at the China booth to Polish sausage from the Poland booth.
Eleven bazaar vendors will be selling clothes, jewelry, art and gift items with an ethnic flair.
Although the Fabulous Chinese Acrobats had to cancel their planned appearance because of visa problems, members of the 600-member Columbus Chinese Association will entertain Saturday afternoon during the festival.
The parade begins at 11 a.m. Saturday and follows the standard route from east on Eighth Street to south on Washington to west on Third. Viewing normally is good especially along Washington or Third Street near The Commons.
Parade grand marshals are:
Chinese native Sijie Xu, the wife of Columbus Chinese Association president Hui Liu.
Taiwan native Yu Han, wife of Johnny Tsai, a former president of the Columbus Chinese Association.
Tsai, still heavily involved in the group, said he strongly believes Ethnic Expo can be an entertaining-yet-educational tool.
“This can help us to have a more complete way of thinking about people,” Tsai said. “We all need to find a way to step into the community to help people better understand us all.”
Anita Palmer, who is helping with the parade on behalf of the Columbus Evening Kiwanis Club, said that 45 entries are set. Ethnic themes are not required for parade units.
“We allow people to do whatever they feel comfortable with in regard to the celebration,” Palmer said.
Held at First and Washington streets in downtown Columbus. Free admission. Conducted rain or shine.
11 a.m.: Food and bazaar booths open. Close at 10 p.m.
5:30 to 7 p.m.: Children’s activities provided by Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.
6 to 7 p.m.: Highland Reign (Scottish folk-rock)
7 to 8 p.m.: The Chardon Polka Band (polka)
8 to 9 p.m.: Sweet Poison Victim (reggae to soul)
11 a.m.: Parade beginning on Eighth Street, south on Washington, west on Third.
Noon to 12:30 p.m.: Southern Indiana Pipes and Drums (Scottish/Irish)
12:30 to 12:40 p.m.: Chinese Lion Dance with the Columbus Chinese Association
12:40 to 1:30 p.m.: Chinese Band
1:30 to 2:30 p.m.: Mariachi Sol Jalisciense (Mexican tunes)
2 to 4 p.m.: kidscommons children’s activities
2 to 2:25 p.m.: Chinese Zodiac Lessons for Kids
2:30 to 3 p.m.: Sankofa Fare Dance & Drum Ensemble (mixing African, Caribbean and Latin tunes)
3 to 3:45 p.m.: Chinese Association Talent
3:45 to 4:15 p.m.: Fabrics From Around the World (fashion show)
4:15 to 5 p.m.: Winners of Columbus Got Talent competition
5 to 6 p.m.: Daily Bread & Butter (European dance music)
9 p.m.: Fireworks
10 p.m.: Food and bazaar booths close.
Information: Visit ethnicexpo.org