History of the festival
The Jackson International Food and Arts Festival began in 2013 when Eduardo Morales, co-chair of JIFAF, asked the City of Jackson if it would consider hosting a festival to celebrate the diversity that exists in the city. At the time, Mr. Morales was part of a group assembled by Jackson’s mayor, Jerry Gist, who had organized a group of community leaders from various neighborhoods to address some of the pressing issues facing Jackson at the time. Dr. Sandra Dee was recruited to co-chair the festival, and the JIFAF was born!
Mr. Morales and Dr. Dee envisioned a festival where people in Jackson who were born outside of the United States could come together and share their cultures with others. Both co-chairs loved
Jackson and understood that too often, some of the city’s international residents felt overlooked. They felt that if Jacksonians were exposed to different cultures, they would welcome their diverse neighbors and enjoy learning more about them. Dr. Dee and Mr. Morales formed a committee that shared this vision. Members represented various cultures, the arts, schools, city employees, and others who worked make this dream a reality.
The first JIFAF debuted in 2014. Despite having a hiccup or two, all involved—including the committee, the public, and Mayor Gist—felt that the festival was a great success. In fact, the festival was so well-attended that many of the food vendors were out of food before 1:00 p.m. even though the event was slated to last until 4:00 p.m. Representatives from The Philippines, Mexico, India, Japan, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan, England, Italy, China, Korea, and Argentina, in addition to others, participated in the first festival. Many reported that the parade, which showcased the individual cultures, brought tears to people’s eyes. The performers and artwork were wonderful. Even though there were high winds and cold temps that day, everyone who attended had a great experience. Because the first festival was so successful, Mr. Morales, Dr. Dee, and the committee decided to continue the festival annually.
The 2015 festival took place on a cold, cold day! Nevertheless, the food was hot and better than ever. Several professional kitchens signed up to participate that year and the food lasted until the end of the festival. Additionally, the Jackson Fire Department got involved, sponsoring a kid’s corner and bringing along jumpers to entertain the kids even more. The 2015 festival saw growth in the number of cultures who participated in the parade and set-up food booths.
Finally, in 2016, the weather on festival-day was perfect! Last year was by far the biggest and best JIFAF yet. Not only was attendance greatly increased, but more food was available, the kid zone was back, and the committee brought in professional entertainment for the first time. Ancient Mexican and Chinese dragon dances were performed, and historical hymns from the Gullah Geechee culture were sung.
Building on this previous success, this year’s JIFAF—scheduled for September 30, 2017—aims to be the best yet. The committee has added several new elements, including an art contest (see “Art Contest” for more information), a bazaar shopping area, new performers, and even more cultures to participate in the parade and share their native cuisines via food booths. Please come join us!