Festival of Nations starts today


What kind of food do you feel like eating this weekend? Chinese? Italian? How about Nepalese, Cambodian, Mexican, Somali, Dutch, Egyptian, Filipino, Turkish, Ukrainian, or Polish?

Actually, you can sample all of the above and more at this weekend's Festival of Nations, the international food, shopping, and entertainment extravaganza at St. Paul's RiverCentre, which opens today at 4 p.m. and runs through Sunday.

About 40,000 people are expected for the event. They'll find 37 ethnic food stands serving 300 items, from German bratwurst and Greek gyros to Norwegian lefse and Nigerian goat stew. (You can see a list of the countries and the foods being served here.) Local restaurants prepare the food for each of the stalls, most of which are run by local nonprofit groups. You can also take part in a wine tasting, where you'll sample vintages from Austria, Bulgaria, Spain, Argentina, Italy, and the U.S. Wine experts will be on hand to talk about the wines and answer questions.

Of course, the event is about more than food and drink. You can shop your way around the world at the bazaar, where jewelry, clothes, crafts, and toys from 55 countries will be on sale. Demonstrations will showcase ethnic arts and crafts from 35 cultures, including Native American silversmithing, Czechoslovakian egg decorating, and Somali fingerweaving. International musicians and dancers will be performing virtually around the clock during the festival.

Tickets are $12 at the door ($7 for kids 5 through 16), though the food and wine tasting are extra. Admission proceeds benefit the International Institute of Minnesota, which has been running the event since 1932. For more details, visit the festivals website.