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World Village Festival is now more of a reflection of Boise’s growing international community

A photo collage of the World Village Festival.
Global Lounge, World Village Festival
After a two-year hiatus, World Village Festival returns to Boise June 24-26.

It’s impossible to sweep across the planet in a weekend; but you most certainly experience the sights, sounds and tastes from Africa, China, Cuba, Japan, Iran, Laos, Spain, Ukraine and much more when the World Village Festival returns to downtown Boise June 24, 25 and 26.

“We want to hold up a mirror to our beautiful community and say, ‘Hey look … these are your neighbors. These are the amazing people who you work with, the people your kids go to school with,’” said Dona Kovaleski, executive director of Global Lounge and co-founder of the festival.

Kovaleski joined co-founder Dayo Ayodele to visit with Morning Edition host George Prentice to preview this year’s festival, which returns to Idaho’s capital city after a two-year hiatus.

“This year's festival will be a wonderful introduction to the newcomers to see what a truly diverse community we have here in Idaho.

“This year's festival will be a wonderful introduction to the newcomers to see what a truly diverse community we have here in Idaho.

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. One of the highlights of this or just about any summer is coming up in just a couple of weeks and that is the Global World Village Festival. It begins June 24th and it runs through that weekend. Dayo Ayodele and Donna Kovaleski, co-founders, are here this morning to tell us more. Let's say good morning.

DONNA KOVALESKI: Good morning.

DAYO AYODELE: Good morning. Great to be here. Thank you, George. And thank you for having us.

PRENTICE: The festival is so big and continually evolving, but a lot of people are new to Idaho and to Boise. So, I think this year's festival could be a pleasant surprise to newcomers. So, what might you tell someone who is new to the area? How would you best paint that word picture of the festival?

KOVALESKI: Well, yeah, that's an excellent point. Idaho has been growing so rapidly and a lot of people have joined the community. And since we've had a couple of years where we haven't been able to get out a lot as a community. This year's festival, I hope, will be a wonderful introduction to the newcomers to see what a truly diverse community we have here in Idaho. I think sometimes we don't have the reputation for being as diverse as we really are. So for us, we hope that it is a surprise, a delight and opportunity to meet and maybe get to know a few of the folks who are here from a number of different communities that make up our one really big, vibrant community. The festival is truly a celebration of not only the traditions but the dance, music, art, food, fashions. We'll really get to see kind of a broad span of the things that people hold most dear and are sharing for the sake of preserving their culture and for education. And so we really like for this festival to be a chance to celebrate and have a chance to meet people who are a little bit different from ourselves and maybe whose paths we don't cross every day.

PRENTICE: Dayo, I'm curious what the past couple of years have been like for you, in particular as a performer. What has that been like for you? And more importantly, can you share with me what the experience is now…stepping out into the sunshine again?

AYODELE: Oh, totally. Thank you. Well, for the past few years, it's been pretty crazy. And when I say crazy, I guess, you know, as a performer, we've not been able to do much, you know, and most of the things that because most events were canceled, you know, at that point at that point since the pandemic. But now that we're back out, things have just been really, really great. So, it's nice to be back in front of people to perform.. because Afrosonics, which is the group that I co-lead here in town, we were at the Treefort Festival. And it was it was just a delight to be in front of people again and smile and…pretty much give them that good music. And for us to also feed off of what they are giving back to us, because it's not just a performance only…we also depend on the attendees or the audience… to kind of give us that love back. So, yeah, so it's been really great to be out there performing.

PRENTICE: I was there at Treefort… and I noticed more than a few tears in the eyes. It was pretty emotional for the audience. Was it emotional for you?

AYODELE: It's you know, it was very emotional. And, you know, and the reason why, because sometimes we take a lot of things for granted, you know, in general, because it's something that's second nature that you do all the time. And we've never had this kind of situation before where we have to, you know, not even have three, four or five people in the same room with you, you know, to do music with. So yeah, coming back on this time, it was just amazing. One of the highlights for me at Treefort was when we were on the bus and we're singing…..and then we just had this kind of call and response with the audience, with the crowd on the bus. It was amazing. I mean, I think it was just super joyful.

PRENTICE: The music, of course, is the centerpiece of this festival. And the food is wonderful, and, as you said, the fashions. But can you talk about the athletics? I love this: you've got like a mini field of play set up right in downtown.

AYODELE: Yes. This is something that we started just right before the pandemic, and it was coordinated for us by Stephanie Coyle, who is the director of hospitality for Treefort, and also kind of one of our members at the Global Lounge. And what she did was brought these youth groups together to play a street, what we call street soccer game, which we're very used to in most other countries, you know, and that was actually super fun and it was a big hit and it was very, very when we had I mean, that was a big hit with all the parents and people that were there to watch. So we're doing it again this year and she's coordinating that as well.

PRENTICE: Donna, I'm looking at the list of representation: Mexican, Basque, indigenous, Portuguese, Chinese. Right. Filipino, Bosnian, Indian, Greek. So much more. And with every passing day - and you alluded to a bit of this earlier - this is becoming more of a reflection of who we are.

KOVALESKI: Thank you for calling that out, because really, that's  what we really want to do. We want to hold up a mirror to our beautiful community and say, “Hey look… these are your neighbors. These are the amazing people who you work with, the people your kids go to school with”. And this year, we're lucky to have 15 different cultures represented in our lineup. And they'll be sharing the stories and traditions and music and art from all the places that they stem from. And they're now bringing to enrich our community here, because this is their community as well. And I just think that we're so fortunate to have such a wonderful, diverse community who are willing to come out together and share a little bit about themselves, learn about other people, and have a really great time doing it.

PRENTICE: I am saving up my appetite already. I wish you nothing but sunshine… whether it be from the sun or liquid sunshine. June 24th, 25th and 26th, and Cecil Andrus Park is the center of all of that. Dayo Ayodele and Donna Kovaleski are co-founders of the Global World Village Festival. Great good luck. And we will see you there.

KOVALESKI: Oh, thank you. Can't wait.

AYODELE: We can't wait. Yes, we will love everybody to be there. Great performances this year. Bands coming to town that people have not seen before. It's going to be a lot of fun.

When people ask me, “What time do you start Morning Edition?” my go-to answer is, “Don’t worry. No matter what time you get up, we’re on the job.”