History of the festival
The JIFAF began in 2013 when Eduardo Morales, co-chair of the JIFAF, asked The City of Jackson if they could have a festival to celebrate the diversity that exists in Jackson, TN. The Mayor of Jackson, Jerry Gist, had organized a group of community leaders from different parts of the city to address some of the pressing issues that the city faced at the time, Eduardo was part of that group. Dr. Sandra Dee agreed to be the other chair and the JIFAF was born!
2014 was the first edition of the JIFAF! Eduardo and Dr. Dee envisioned a festival where all the people from Jackson that were born outside of the US could come together and share their cultures with Jackson and people from all around the world. They both loved Jackson and realized that sometimes the different communities in Jackson felt over looked. They felt that if Jacksonians were exposed to different cultures they would welcome them and enjoy learning more about them. Dr. Dee and Eduardo helped build a committee that shared this vision. Members represented different cultures, the arts, schools, city employees, and others to help make this dream a reality. As one would expect, the first festival had a hiccup or two, but those on the committee, the public, and the Mayor all thought that the festival was a great success!! The festival was so well attended that many of the cultures were out of food before 1 and the festival was slated to last until 4! Some of the cultures that participated were The Philippines, Mexico, India, Japan, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan, England, Italy, China, Korea, and Argentina. The Parade was said to have brought tears to people’s eyes. The performers were amazing as was the art work. Even though we had high minds and a cold temp everyone who attended had a wonderful experience. Since the first installment of the JIFAF was so successful Eduardo, Dr. Dee, and the committee decided to have the festival the next year and every year thereafter!
2015 was a cold, cold day! The weather was cold, but the food was hot and better than ever! A few professional kitchens signed up this year so there was food all the way to 4, but most of the cultural booths still ran out of food. In 2015 the Jackson Fire Department sponsored a kid’s corner and they brought out a bunch of jumpers to entertain the kids a little more! Even though it was cold more cultures participated in the parade and set up food booths.
2016 saw the JIFAF receive PERFECT weather! 2016 was by far the biggest and best JIFAF yet. Not only was the attendance way up, but more food was available, the kid zone was back and for the first time the committee brought in professional entertainment! An ancient Mexican dance was performed, some historical hymns from the Gullah Geechee culture were sung, and an Ancient Chinese Dragon dance was performed!!
2017 was a great year for the festival with thousands of people who came to watch Ronin Taiko who performed “wadaiko”, the art of Japanese drumming. This was the first time the Jackson community has seen such a spectacular show.
Building on this previous success, this year’s JIFAF—scheduled for September 29, 2018—aims to be the best yet. Our guest performer this year is Danza Azteca Quetzalcoatl, whose group name means” flying serpent”. More cultures will participate in the parade, share delicious native cuisines and perform special dances and music. It is the second year of the Art and Poetry contest and elementary, middle school and high school students are invited to participate.