Around the world and back again in Aurora at Global Fest

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AURORA | Two years after Aurora hosted its first jamboree in celebration of everything tied to the city’s multiculturalism, the shine has not yet faded for Mayor Steve Hogan.

Global Fest on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo by Chris Schneider Photography)“This third anniversary is, for me, at least, as exciting as the first two,” Hogan said of Global Fest, the annual party the city organizes to salute Aurora’s increasingly diverse population. “It’s an opportunity for our international community to come out and not to have to go through some kind of formal governmental speeches and everything else. It’s just a day of celebration.”

The third incarnation of Global Fest is scheduled to take place from 1 p.m.-7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 20 on The Great Lawn in front of the Aurora Municipal Center.

The festival is slated to feature more than a dozen performances tethered to cultures around the globe, as well as numerous food and beer vendors at the municipal hub off of East Alameda Avenue. Performers include a Korean drum ensemble, Celtic musicians, salsa dancers, and entertainers from several African nations and other distant corners of the planet, including Uzbekistan, Romania and the Philippines.

Food vendors will be hawking dishes from Nigeria, Panama, Mexico, Vietnam and New Zealand, among other countries. Beer selections include a Lao Wang Lager from Caution Brewing, a German-style Hefeweizen and blonde “Aurora Ale” from Dry Dock Brewing Company.

New this year, the city’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department will be hosting a cooking demonstration at 3:45 p.m.

Global Fest is the product of discussions held by the city’s International Roundtable, a multicultural committee intended to foster international relations that was established by city council in 2012.

Hogan said that the festival has come to serve as an advertisement for the city’s diversity, and could be an asset for wooing new enterprises to Aurora. City officials are actively courting representatives from the consulate of El Salvador to open a new outpost in Aurora instead of Denver.

“It’s noticed by the consulates that are here in town: We’ve had the Mexican consulate staff show up, we’ve had the Japanese consulate staff show up, we’ve had numerous other honorary councils show up from Korea and from El Salvador,” Hogan said. “It is one of those events that’s beginning to be noticed across the metropolitan area.”

The city’s recently rejuvenated Sister Cities program, which pairs Aurora with municipalities of similar size or economic prowess, has also been prominently featured at recent Global Fest celebrations. In 2014, the city touted its then-new partnership with Adama, Ethiopia and last year officials celebrated a new tie to Seongnam City, South Korea. This year, politicos are finalizing a relationship with a new “Friendship City” in El Salvador during a ceremony scheduled for Friday, Aug. 19.

Aurora also has technical partnerships with cities in Poland and Costa Rica, but those collaborations have been almost entirely inert since they were created in the late 1980s and early 1990s, according to Karlyn Shorb, executive director of Aurora Sister Cities International.

City-sponsored initiatives like Sister Cities, Global Fest and Aurora’s relatively new Office of International and Immigrant Affairs, are vital, cultural thoroughfares for the city’s many foreign-born residents and refugees, according to Christian Jimenez, an associate pastor at Iglesia Un Nuevo Comienzo and emcee at this year’s Global Fest.

“A lot of these people who come here, especially refugees, leave because they don’t trust the government and they have issues with their government,” said Jimenez, who also heads the nonprofit organization History Makers Youth Network. “For the city to do something like (Global Fest) is so important because it opens up communication from the city to the citizens, it changes people’s perception and, most importantly, it changes their hearts about how they feel about government and the city.”Global Fest on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo by Chris Schneider Photography)

Marelyne Chong, president of the Philippine American Society of Colorado, added that the event serves as a relevant reminder of Aurora’s burgeoning international fabric.

“It’s great for people to be aware that there are different folks that live in this area, and that there’s so much to learn from each other,” she said.

About 70,500 Aurora residents were born in another country, according to the city’s 2016 demographic report, which uses data tabulated by the American Community Survey. That accounts for about 20 percent of the city’s total population.

Of those residents born outside of the U.S., about 43 percent, or 30,000 people are from Mexico. The next highest national populations born outside of the U.S. living in Aurora are from Ethiopia, with about 3,000 residents, and El Salvador, which boasts nearly 2,500 residents.