University of Minnesota

Festival of Nations

The International Institute of Minnesota organized the first Festival of Nations, known before 1936 simply as the “Folk Festival,” during the first weekend of May, 1932. The inaugural Festival was so successful that, in succeeding years, the event would be moved to high-capacity venues such as the St Paul River Centre, where the Festival of Nations is currently held. A central feature of the Festival of Nations is the “international village,” in which each ethnic/nationality group participating in the Festival showcases its national traditions, folklore, and customs. By bringing together different people from a wide array of backgrounds and experiences, the International Village is intended to symbolize America’s national diversity.

Festival of Nations
Festival of Nations Parade
Festival Organizers


Each exhibit showcases the traditional dress, food, and art of participating groups.

Armenian Exhibit
Czechoslovakia Exhibit
Italian Exhibit
Mexican Exhibit
Polish Exhibit
Ukrainian Exhibit


Eating foods from the various ethnic groups with exhibitions at the Festival of Nations was a favorite activity among festivalgoers. Sharing customary dishes was one way for participants of the Festival to both honor the traditions unique to their own cultures as well as discover areas of common interest and experience.  

Eating food at the Festival of Nations

(Note: History of the Festival of Nations from Alice L. Sickels, Around the World in St. Paul, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1945.)


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