Springfield CultureFest, in conjunction with the C-Street City Market in 2019. (Photo: SGF CultureFest)

Amid the seemingly endless fall festivals and corn mazes, Springfield CultureFest offers something different than the celebration of autumn: diversity.

CultureFest will be taking place as an extension of the Commercial Street City Market on Saturday, September 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will feature local musicians, dancers and crafters celebrating their different ethnicities.

Egyptian dance, Swedish string music, Korean-pop, Celtic harp, Jazz music and Punjabi dance are among the performances planned to take place on the KOLR 10 stage. 

“When you come and see the rich ethnic heritage and legacy of our city, you will be even more proud to be a Springfieldian,” the CultureFest website reads. “So come on to the best diversity appreciation event that Springfield has to offer!”

CultureFest has a slew of local sponsors, including Commerce Bank, the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Ozarks Technical Community College and the City of Springfield. 

“Through various ethnic talents, foods and businesses, we will celebrate rich ethnic diversity and heritage, collaborate with global-minded Springfield residents, and cultivate a welcoming city for people from around the world,” the website reads. 

The origins of CultureFest

Joe Gidman, chairman of the committee that organizes CultureFest, president of the board of the C-Street City Market and owner of several businesses in the Commercial Street Historic District, is looking forward to their second annual festival. The inaugural CultureFest took place in 2019 and was forced to push back its return until this year due to the pandemic. 

It all began as a conversation between Gidman, Rebekah Thomas with the International Institute, Saehee Duran with Life 360 Church and Yolanda Jorge with Grupo Latinoamericano to prove Springfield’s diversity amid calls that the city was lacking many different ethnicities.

“A lot of the community here doesn’t seem to recognize that we are a diverse community,” Gidman said. “There’s a lot of immigrants and different cultures here that maybe feel isolated and by having an event like this, it gets them to come together to realize that they’re not isolated and try to connect them to the community.”

CultureFest, take two

While the two-year hiatus threw a wrench into their ability to predict what kind of turnout 2022’s CultureFest will have, Gidman doesn’t expect to be far off from 2019’s roughly estimated attendance of 2,000, potentially supplemented by guests from the nearby White River Brewing Company’s festival taking place the same day from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.

In addition to the diverse list of performers, food and craft vendors will represent ethnic traditions from Mexico to Peru to Hungary to Korea, among others.

Springfield CultureFest, in conjunction with the C-Street City Market in 2019. (Photo: SGF CultureFest)

“It’s a celebration of our ethnic diversity in southwest Missouri,” Gidman said. “Trying to highlight the different cultures that are here that we don’t always see on a regular basis through food, music, arts and crafts.”

Admission to CultureFest will be free, along with enjoying the live performances, but purchases will have to be made through individual vendors to partake in international cuisine and bring home crafts and products. Some parking will be available along Commercial Street itself, and additional parallel parking and public lots are available directly south of Commercial Street. More information can be found on their website and  Facebook page.

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is a general assignment reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen, with a focus on regional politics. McGee most recently worked at Carbon Trace Productions, a documentary film company, as a producer. He’s a Missouri State University graduate and former reporter at student-led newspaper The Standard. More by Jack McGee