HUNTINGTON — Vicki Cole, of Kenova, brought her granddaughter Hannah to the 56th annual International Festival at Marshall University on Saturday to continue teaching her about the different cultures in the world.

“I like to take her to events that promote diversity and inclusion,” Cole said. “We live in a global society today, so we must develop cultural understanding in a world that is increasingly multicultural.”

Cole’s granddaughter is 8 years old, and Cole thinks it’s important to start early.

“I hope we learn something from each table we visit today,” Cole said.

The event is West Virginia’s largest and longest-running international festival, featuring international foods, world music, dances and displays representing many countries and cultures. It was sponsored by the Office of International Student Services and took place in the Memorial Student Center on the Huntington campus.

“We live in a global world, so we need to learn about different cultures and environments,” said Jyotsna Patel, event coordinator and administrator for the Office of International Student Services at Marshall. “We must value and embrace diversity, and this festival does just that by bringing people together. We learn also that we have so much in common.”

The festival was free to attend. Students and campus organizations set up booths that gave patrons a glimpse into a country’s culture with photos and country-specific items.

Performances showcased international dances, music and traditional clothing during a world fashion show. Participating local restaurants sold a variety of food samples.

Patel said the festival promotes a global mindset to the Marshall community.

“We have students from at least 60 different countries attending Marshall University,” she said. “We want to promote diversity so that we have an inclusive campus.”

Nida Alastal, from Palestine near Jerusalem, set up a “Middle East” table with her friend from Libya.

“I have two children that attend Marshall University,” Alastal said. “So this event gives us a chance to teach others a little about our culture.”

Alastal said the women from her culture hand-make many clothing and decorative items.

“I wanted to show the beauty of these hand-made things,” she said.

Patel said while some students are from a different culture, all have things in common.

“We all love good food, we all love music and dance, and we hope this festival gives those attending a truly global experience,” she said. “The International Festival provides a relaxing atmosphere to make new friends and become acquainted with different cultures. Knowing and understanding each other is a great start to making the world a more accepting and harmonious place.”

Follow reporter Fred Pace at and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

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