The festival featured food from 12 ethnic restaurants.
The foods ranged from northern and southern Indian food to traditional Ethiopian cuisine. Each restaurant provided samples for $1 while musical entertainment performed on the World Stage.
“People don’t want to go in and spend $10 or $12 on something they don’t even know they like,” said Steve Swihart, executive director of BIRA and director of the festival. “This is to encourage people to try it.”
Bloomington was rated fourth on the list of best food towns in the Midwest by Midwest Living Magazine due to its ethnic variety and local ownership.
“This town contains food from A to Z, from Afghanistan to Zagreb,” Swihart said. “That is really unique for the size of this town.”
IUAA Alumni Programs Officer Emili Sperling said the idea for the festival developed after talking with graduating seniors last spring.
A common wish was to have taken advantage of more of the restaurants on Fourth Street and experienced Bloomington to the fullest, Sperling said.
“We wanted students to be able to experience all that Bloomington has to offer in a setting where they could do it on a student budget,” Sperling said.
WFHB, a community radio station run by volunteers, emceed the festival and introduced the entertainment.
The evening began with a performance by music group Jiridon followed by Sudanese and Egyptian music from Otaak Band.
Dark Side Tribal dance troupe performed American Tribal Style belly dance, and the Bernard Woma Ensemble from Ghana performed with African drumming and dance. Costume artists showcased traditional Latin dress.
The festival was an opportunity to build community between the restaurants of Fourth Street and encourage students to take advantage of the diversity Bloomington has to offer, Swihart said.
Gopinaath Kannabiran, a Ph.D. student from India, painted henna free of charge. Tvips were donated to a local animal shelter.
The IU Chinese Calligraphy Club sold traditional Chinese goods and wrote customers’ names in Chinese symbols.
Restaurants outside the 400 block of Fourth Street, such as Taste of India and Dat’s, set up tents inside the festival.
“We have done Taste of Bloomington, and it worked really well,” Taste of India owner Tiffany Clark said. “People come in and say they tried us there and have never had Indian food before.”
Sperling said the proceeds from food purchases benefitted the restaurants, while the wristband proceeds covered event costs.
“I hope for this to be an annual thing,” Sperling said. “I want to make sure my students are able to experience the Bloomington that I fell in love with.”
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