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GlobalFest Central Illinois makes its debut

by Lisa Coon |

Central Illinois is home to many ethnically diverse neighborhoods, and organizers of an upcoming, immersive event want others to experience the cultures that thrive around them. 

 GlobalFest Central Illinois 2023 will be held from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, at Five Points Washington. It’s an opportunity for people to learn about the world without venturing far from home, said Angela Weck, a Bradley University professor of political science, international studies and history. 

“The Peoria area is a really dynamic community and we don’t give ourselves nearly enough credit for how cool the region is,” said Weck, who sits on the committee planning this inaugural event.

“Central Illinois tends to get a bad reputation of being isolated or insulated and not very welcoming to outsiders, and nothing could be further from the truth,” she said. “A lot of us on this committee have contacts in this broad, diverse community we live in.”

Franklin Foulger, chairperson for the event committee, said GlobalFest is the next evolution in addressing diversity and inclusion.

“Instead of just talking about diversity and inclusion and feeling uncomfortable to talk about discrimination, we are going to give folks a very hands-on, visual and physically immersive experience,” he said. “We are bringing many of the cultures that exist in the Peoria region together for a night to appreciate the diversity we live in and enjoy right here at home.”

About 25 cultures will be represented with educational booths and opportunities to experience their music, clothing, customs, dance, languages and foods, said event organizer Sarah Freeland.

“The main goal of Globalfest is to bring together people from different backgrounds by letting them experience culturally immersive events. This will help people learn more about the people who have moved to central Illinois… while having fun and learning about other cultures,” Freeland said.

Some highlights for the day include performances by the Peoria Ballet Company and the Central Illinois Ballet Company, joined by the Peoria International Choir and PJ Dance Academy, Freeland said. Children, meanwhile, will get the opportunity to fill out a passport and get stamps from every country they visit.  

“Personally, one of the things I’d like to stress, is a lot of people come to Peoria for the hospitals or Caterpillar,” said Weck. “The Peoria region, it’s a pass-through, or at least many think it is because they don’t think it’s a place to call home.

“We want to show we can attract the best and brightest. You can find everything you want and need and celebrate right here. It doesn’t have to be a pass-through.” 

Foulger expressed hope that attendees will walk away with admiration for what we have in the Peoria region, with a greater understanding of why diversity is important, and “feel great about where they live.”

This is just the beginning. In January, the Peoria City Council proclaimed the event an annual offering toward educating area residents on the culturally diverse communities that make up the region.

 “Initiatives like this help remove bias and stereotypes that we have of cultures,” said Foulger. “It helps us to come together with the diverse groups that have made the Peoria area home because they wanted to and not because they had to. This event digs at the heart of eliminating discrimination.”

Tickets can be purchased in advance at

Lisa Coon

is a Peoria native who had a long career in the newspaper industry before moving into marketing and communications