International Festival brings a taste of the world to Columbia

Allen Wallace photos.

A trip around the world usually requires a passport, lots of vacation time and quite a bit of money. Sunday in Columbia, the only thing required was a visit to the State Fairgrounds.

The 24th annual Columbia International Festival offered more than 20,000 visitors a taste of the culture and food of dozens of countries.

Volunteers spent much of the day Friday setting up for the big two-day event, which kicked off Saturday. That day’s parade of nations included traditionally dressed representatives from nearly 100 countries.

Natives of more than 60 countries staffed booths on both Saturday and Sunday, displaying clothes, pictures, artifacts, and many other items. Many interactive opportunities were available, including chances to learn useful phrases in many languages and try a wide variety of international arts, crafts and games.

And then, of course, there was the food.

“Everything is so much fun but honestly we’d come just to eat,” said Jessica Durant as she and a group of friends formed a community table, pushing dishes purchased from all over the International Food Court to the center for all to share. “I don’t even know what all these things are but I like them.”

On stage near the food court, live performances by representatives from many countries offered mealtime entertainment. Shopping was also an option, with clothes, jewelry and countless other items for sale.

The festival is the largest annual international event in South Carolina, and will return to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2020. More information is available at

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Columbia, Education, Richland County