Story and photography by Gwen Sisson
It is the sound of the drums, the colorful flags and costumes, and the smell incredible food from around the world that makes the International Fiesta one of the most interesting local events all year.
The 21st Annual International Fiesta was held Saturday on the Drill Field at the Mississippi State University campus. The annual event is sponsored by the World Neighbors Association.
“This is a wonderful event that showcases what a multicultural community Starkville is,” said Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman. “We are fortunate to be the home of many different people from many different places. This convergence of people from all over the world into our community forms a unique multicultural kaleidoscope that is an important part of Starkville’s identity.”
Wiseman said the international community in Starkville is an asset that makes the community a special place.
His wife, Lindsey, said the World Neighbors Association and MSU’s Holmes Cultural Diversity Center deserve a lot of thanks for their efforts with the Fiesta.
“It is such a fun and exciting event,” Lindsey Wiseman said.
Dr. Bill Kibler, vice president for Student Affairs at MSU, said this year marks his seventh time to attend the Fiesta, and in that time, more and more student organizations have been forming on the MSU campus, representing countries from around the world. He said that is something he was proud of.
“This event is about unity...it is about celebrating our differences and the things we have in common. This is the perfect example of what Mississippi State University and Starkville can do together,” Kibler said.
Kibler said all of the cultures represented at Saturday’s Fiesta had two things in common, smiling faces and a love for good food.
About 18 student organizations sold food and had displays featuring items from their native countries. Various organizations and community groups also shared a variety of traditional entertainment for Fiesta visitors.
In between entertainers, Fiesta organizers named Dinum Perera of Sri Lanka the 2011 Miss International Fiesta and Shamitha Asoka Dissanayake of Sri Lanka the 2011 Mr. International Fiesta. The Little Miss International Fiesta is Tiffany Nicole Kelly from the United States and Little Mr. International Fiesta is Yasiru Gajanayake of Sri Lanka.
Joan Mylroie, one of the organizers for the Fiesta, said the flags and the costumes brightened up a beautiful day.
“I am glad every religion was praying for a sunny day,” Mylroie said.
Ruth de la Cruz, an organizer for the Fiesta and president of the World Neighbors Association, said committee members and World Neighbor officers did an excellent job to make this year’s Fiesta wonderful.
“This was a lot of fun,” De la Cruz said. “We were blessed with a sunny morning and lots of people had a great time.”