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Cultural Diversity Blossoms at the 35th International Spring Festival with Entertainment, Activities and Cuisine from Around The World

“At the heart of our foundation lies the commitment to fostering understanding and appreciation for cultures from around the world,” said International Festival Foundation President Manish Ingle.
Photo courtesy of International Festival Foundation.

The International Spring Festival, a celebration that fosters diversity and equity through inclusion and multicultural acceptance, will host its 35th annual event on Saturday at North Penn High School in Lansdale.

The Festival is organized by the International Festival Foundation.

IFF President Manish Ingle, an active member of the organization for 24 years, said that the event’s annual attendance of 3,000 to 4,000 has established the IFF as Pennsylvania’s largest diversity event.

“At the heart of our foundation lies the commitment to fostering understanding and appreciation for cultures from around the world,” Ingle said. “Through events like the International Spring Festival, we aim to create spaces where people of all backgrounds can come together to share in the beauty and richness of our collective heritage.”

Forty-Seven different languages are spoken at the North Penn High School and a diverse array of cultures including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Belize, Cambodia, Canada, Korea, Latino and Hispanic, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Philippines, China, Egypt, India, Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Poland, Vietnam, and for the first time Italy, will be represented at the festival.

The festival dates to the 1980s, and Francis Jeyaraj, M.D., a pediatrician who came to the Lansdale area in the 1970s, is one of the festival’s original co-founders.

Jeyaraj has long believed in giving back, and through his extensive philanthropic efforts he became aware of the diverse ethnicities within the community.

READ: Welcoming The Stranger Helps Immigrants In Bucks County Navigate The English Language

“There was a Chinese group, an Indian group, and each group had a silo. They built a wall around themselves. They never mixed,” he said. “I don’t look at people on the basis of race or religion and things like that. I respect all people, and I trust all people.”

The doctor, along with other community members, began to collaborate on ideas to encourage interactive relationships between the different cultures, and those ideas were brought to life through the creation of the International Spring Festival.

“The aim of the festival is to show every group in a very positive light. Their food, the entertainment, their costumes, children’s activities … and that’s the way you change a country, one family at a time,” said Jeyaraj, who helped propel the festival into the 21st Century.

image 1 - Bucks County Beacon - Cultural Diversity Blossoms at the 35th International Spring Festival with Entertainment, Activities and Cuisine from Around The World
Photo courtesy of International Festival Foundation.

As the foundation’s newest president, Ingle says he is excited to bring fresh ideas and initiatives to enhance the ISF, including partnering with more cultural organizations and embassies to showcase a wider array of traditions, arts, and cuisines.

“I aim to introduce interactive workshops and educational sessions to promote cultural understanding and appreciation among attendees,” he said.

Ingle has plans to leverage technology to enhance the festival experience with virtual components that will allow global participation and engagement. “Overall, my goal is to make the International Spring Festival a truly inclusive and immersive celebration of diversity.”

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New to the IFF Board is Richard Buttacavoli, who brings 30 years of experience in event production, sales, community outreach, and advocacy to the foundation. Buttacavoli is responsible for bringing Italy, a country not previously represented, to the festival.

“As a new board member of the International Spring Festival, I felt compelled to ensure that the rich heritage of my Italian roots was represented.”

A story on ABC local news that highlighted the Italian American Museum in Philadelphia provided the connection Buttacavoli was looking for.  

Filitalia International, nestled in the heart of South Philadelphia at 1834 E Passyunk Avenue, is an international non-profit founded by Pasquale Nestico, M.D. in 1987.

In addition to a museum dedicated to showcasing the history of Italian immigrants in the United States, the organization works to foster Italian heritage, language and customs through an array of programs including scholarships, student exchange programs, translation services, and cultural events, among other things.

image 2 - Bucks County Beacon - Cultural Diversity Blossoms at the 35th International Spring Festival with Entertainment, Activities and Cuisine from Around The World
Photo courtesy of International Festival Foundation.

“There’s an amazing amount of people in this organization that dedicated their lives [to Filitalia] since its creation,” said Saverio P. Nestico, who was recently elected the group’s president and is the son of the founder.

“I always tell people, we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. You know, being that the organization is less than 40 years old, we’re still kind of a baby in the grand scheme of things,” he added.

The organization currently has 1,500 members across 27 chapters and Nestico believes there’s a thirst for Italian culture, for the traditions and for the heritage.

The Bucks County chapter of Filitalia will be representing Italy and hosting the display at Saturday’s International Spring Festival.

“Now, with Italian heritage included, I hope to foster a sense of belonging for fellow Italians and encourage the celebration of our culture alongside others at the festival,” Buttacavoli said.

Traditional cuisine from an assortment of countries, along with fun-filled activities for kids including arts and crafts, games and interactive storytelling round out this family friendly event.

“This year’s festival promises to be an unforgettable experience for attendees of all ages,” Ingle said. “Prepare to be dazzled by a kaleidoscope of entertainment featuring captivating cultural dances that showcase the diversity of our global community.”

There is no admission charge to the festival held at the North Penn High School, 1340 Valley Forge Road in Lansdale, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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