Like so many successful gatherings before it, the Arts International Festival began as a simple potluck affair.
“The Pee Dee International Festival started at the Florence Family YMCA as a covered-dish supper,” says Joan Billheimer, long-time Arts International committee member. “People brought a covered dish from their individual culture. It was basically potluck – and very ethnic.”
The festival grew from that modest beginning and is now held at Francis Marion University, where it has been combined with FMU's Art's Alive event.
The event features not only an ample variety of ethnic foods but also music, dancing, arts and plenty of opportunities to learn about the diversity of cultures in Florence County.
“Florence is becoming a little international community, and we depend largely on the international community when you think about what is here,” says Billheimer, citing such companies as Honda of South Carolina Mfg. Inc. and Nan Ya Plastics Corp.
“[These companies] have brought in a wonderful, diverse group of individuals to work in their facilities. We think it’s an expression of our diversity by having this (festival) and sharing it with the community.”
The Taste of the World part of the event includes food items for sale, including American, British, Cajun, Caribbean, Chinese, Colombian, German, Japanese, Indian, Korean and Mexican.
Entertainment is a cornucopia of music, dancing and other performing arts from around the world. The festival also features an arts show and activities for children.
The festival is open to the public. There is no admission charge.