CLAYTON -- Despite a damp and rainy forecast, hundreds from the Triangle area showed up to enjoy some global culture last Saturday at the annual St. Ann International Food Festival.
Cars filled with festival goers lined both sides of US 70 Business for nearly an hour during lunchtime, patiently waiting to find a parking space on the church’s grounds.
Now in its fifth year, the event led patrons on a worldwide journey through 19 different countries with homemade food, music and fun. Many came for the unique chance to learn about various cultures and, of course, try new foods.
“They were really good,” said Caroline Ford, 11, after tasting pierogi at the booth from Poland.
The Clayton resident huddled under an umbrella along with her parents, siblings and a friend while making their way along the mid-way set up with various food vendors. The group also made stops at Mexico, Honduras and France.
“We definitely made it a point to come out today, rain or shine,” said mom Jeannie Ford. “It’s a great opportunity for all of us to try different foods.”
Diana Cedeno traveled from Raleigh to experience her first festival after learning about it from a friend. She stayed dry under a tent eating pernil asado, a roast pork dish, along with a side of rice made by folks at the Puerto Rico booth. It was a meal that brought back memories of food her grandmother used to cook for her as a child growing up in the Spanish Harlem section of New York City.
“You can’t find food like this around here,” Cedeno said. “It’s got so much flavor and texture. I came out here today because I was curious about my own culture. It’s nice to see all different kinds of food here.”
Drawing the largest crowd was the booth from Mexico which featured men wearing sombreros and women dressed in traditional garb. They served up popular fare including tacos, tamales, picaditas and flautas.
“We’ve fed over 80 people in our first two hours,” noted volunteer Jackie Fajardo.
Performances on a nearby stage showcasing global rhythms provided entertainment while attendees ate. Rhythmicity, a drumming and percussion group from Raleigh created African beats and taught dance steps to audience members. The sounds of Caribbean steel drums, mariachi music and Celtic songs also filled the air throughout the day.
“The day has been great,” said event co-chair Ann Grossman. “The rain hasn’t hurt anything and we’re very happy with how it all turned out. Our food booths did an outstanding job this year.”
Entertainment coordinator Lisa Morgan said the day raised $50,000 from food sales, silent auction, raffles and games. It was enough to burn the church’s mortgage, which officials did on stage at the festival’s end.
“To think we raised that much money in the rain, I can only image what we would have brought in if it was sunny,” Morgan said. “Moving forward, we’re looking to build an addition to teach (Sunday school) children in. It’s going to be awesome.”