Cranwell International Center, along with the Council of International Student Organizations (CISO), will host the 56th annual International Street Fair from noon to 5 p.m. April 19. 

The event is free and open to the public, and it will take place rain or shine.

The scent of savory saffron, fresh papaya, and melt-in-your-mouth baklava will beckon the community to College Avenue. The aromas are everywhere because the food is cooked everywhere — at nonprofits, churches, and residence halls willing to donate their kitchens for the three days leading up to the fair.

“We would like for international students to feel welcomed by the Blacksburg community and our church,” said the Rev. Bill King, pastor of Luther Memorial Lutheran Church in downtown Blacksburg. “We feel that our location means our calling is to be in partnership with the university wherever we can. Space is one thing we can share, and so we do. 

“Having grown up in a small town, I meet more internationals and persons of different faiths and cultures in a day in Blacksburg than I met in the first 20 years of my life," he added. "Globalization is bringing us together. That is exciting, but it also demands that we gain appreciation for differences.”

This year’s fair will offer 65 booths representing more than 50 nations and cultures. Last year’s fair attracted more than 13,000 attendees.

“The International Street Fair, in its scale and attraction, provides a rare and important moment to bring the local and international communities together in celebration of our diverse heritage,” said Ankit Saigal of New Delhi, India, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering and a CISO board member. “The event stands without parallel among college campuses in this nation.”

In addition to foods from around the world, student groups will offer traditional music, dance, and martial arts performances. Additional booth space has been added this year. Organizers said they hope this will help fair-goers enjoy festivities without feeling cramped in the downtown streets.

A new-and-improved Kid Zone will give the whole family an opportunity to experience the rich cultures represented in Blacksburg. Activities highlighting diversity, cooperation, and peace education include kid’s yoga with Recreational Sports, crafts with the Blacksburg Chinese School, a community art project with the Blacksburg Children’s Museum, and more.

“We are particularly excited about the Kid Zone expansion as it will be a fun way to introduce children to the cultural richness that surrounds them in the New River Valley,” said Rachel Rugh, programming coordinator for Cranwell.

Cranwell staff and CISO student representatives work together on many aspects of the fair, including logistics, marketing, outreach, and coordinating the performances.

The variety and diversity of student organizations is integral to the event’s success, and student participants often comment on the feeling of unity that comes from being part of the fair.

“Food, music, dance, crafts — these are all tangible examples of the many elements that make up various cultures,” said Rugh. “By displaying them, celebrating them, and inviting the public to explore, we are encouraging a spirit of curiosity and engaged citizenship among all of the Southwest Virginia community.”

For more information, or to volunteer at the event, contact Cranwell International Center at international@vt.edu

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

Written by Holly Paulette.