Dozens of vendors will be on hand Friday evening at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo showcasing cuisine and art from a number of continents. The Arts and Culture Festival is an effort to bridge cultural gaps and promote the area’s diversity.
While the festival was planned long before the violence in Charlottesville, founder and executive director of Believe in Syracuse John DeSantis says the celebration comes at a perfect time.
"Our society so often feels like we're divided along cultural lines and demographic lines, and events like this bring people together."
He says hundreds of tickets have been sold for the fundraiser, and as many as 500 could turn out for the food, art, and music.
"What we're all about is getting people out of their bubble, getting them out of their comfort zone by showcasing diversity, refugees communities, and refugee entrepreneurs."
DeSantis says organizing the festival revealed some compelling stories of survival and determination among vendors.
"For example, Assad who owns the Syrian Sweets Company, he has a really powerful story about how he fled Syria amid war. And, Sarah, who owns Punjabi Girl Catering, she actually came out of the program at With Love Restaurant on N. Salina St.; she's also a refugee Pakistan."
DeSantis says while Syracuse’s newest cultures will be in the spotlight, the festival will also feature familiar traditions like Irish food and dancers, Italian ice, and Mexican cuisine. But he hopes attendees don’t hesitate to branch out.
"No matter what you're background or where you're from, try some Syrian ice cream, and maybe it'll make you think differently about Syrian refugees. Maybe trying some food from Pakistan will make you think differently about the world."
The Arts and Culture Festival runs Friday from 5:30 to 9:00 at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. Tickets are $30 at the door; kids under 12 are free. Proceeds benefit Believe in Syracuse, which aims to promote positive perceptions and improve the quality of life in the Syracuse area.