Front Royal festival celebrates area’s diversity

By Ryan Cornell

An event in Downtown Front Royal on Saturday aims to highlight the area’s diverse religions, ethnicities and cultures.

The inaugural Celebrate Diversity Festival will be held at the Main Street gazebo. It is free to attend and is open to everyone.

Festival organizer James North said the first-ever street fair will showcase artists and crafters as well as cultural exhibitors and food vendors, offering both traditional festival fare and food from around the world.

A parade on Chester Street starting at 10 a.m. will feature “people of all walks of life,” North said, including those from various nonprofits, religious groups and charities.

“We’re reaching out to people of all ages, people of all social backgrounds,” he said. “We want to have a day where we bring people out from the shadows and show that this is a very diverse place.”

Immediately following the parade, an interfaith worship service will host members of different faiths sharing their beliefs. A secular portion of the service will be led by elected officials and community leaders on how to bring people together.

Music and performances from noon to 4 p.m. will feature a variety of singers and dancers, including a troupe of Irish cloggers from Winchester.

North said he was inspired to create the festival after witnessing the hate speech attacking different groups earlier this year when a discriminatory town ordinance about fortune tellers and “gypsies” was in the process of being repealed. He said he hopes to make the festival an annual event.

“Right now we’re living in a time when politicians and other people tend to use our differences to divide us, instead of using them to unite us,” he said. “No matter where you look around the world, people share our values.”

An essay contest organized through the festival asks public school students in Warren County to write an essay on whether diversity and tolerance are important to American values. Winners will receive a prize pack from local businesses, and junior and senior student winners will be awarded college scholarships.

For more info, visit http://www.goo.gl/ORPPPc or call 888-507-2081.