Festival of Nations — A Walk Around the World Within the Capital Region

by Florinda Gjypi – (November 5, 2023) The annual Festival of Nations (FON) took place for the 52nd year at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, NY. Pray tell, what is the Festival of Nations? 

The festival dates back to 1972 when several community cultural group leaders got together with an idea to organize an art and cultural festival in the Capital Region to prove how well people with diverse backgrounds can work together, to show a glimpse of the world to the residents of the Capital District, and as an opportunity to get their children involved so that they can appreciate their heritage.

Each Fall they gather to plan probably one of the most diverse and active events within the Capital Region. With each head turn, you witness something different and exciting. FON activities include a parade including all the present nations, native dances, music, crowning of missed festivals from each nation, unique crafts and entertainment from around the world, dozens of raffle prizes, and most importantly, lots of food and tasty ethnic dishes from all around the world.

“I have never tried better food than this. I can’t even tell you from the table which country we got it from because we are trying as many different dishes as we can. I[t’]s just such a wonderful thing to see all this diversity here in the Capital Region. We even saw some children wearing their country’s traditional costumes. It was so cute,” Marcelina Fox, a student living in Albany said. 

Other than the participating nations, a number of local Non-Governmental Organizations of the Capital Region attend the Festival of Nations each year. Each organization utilizes their booth space to promote their organization’s mission, engage with attendees, and embrace the opportunity to be involved with a major event that brings connects a lot of diverse communities, annually. One of these organizations happened to be our very own International Center of the Capital Region (ICCR). 

“Our organization attends this event yearly. It’s just amazing to see all the work behind it, how much there is to do and see here, and how many people attend. It is a chance the attendees get to reconnect with their own cultural backgrounds while learning about other around the world,” Holly Planells McKenna, executive director of ICCR said. 

It happens every fall, and a lot of fun is guaranteed. In very simple words, its like a short walk around the world without leaving Albany, while enjoying some very tasty food.