VCU’s Intercultural Festival is a labor of love for its student organizers

2012 festival drew huge crowds to Monroe Park

Visitors to last Saturday’s Intercultural Festival at VCU were treated to culture, cuisine, performances and activities that reflected many countries.

But as they strolled leisurely through Monroe Park to check out the sights, sounds and festival fun, many probably didn’t realize the months of hard work necessary to put it all together.

The Intercultural Festival at VCU is planned and coordinated entirely by student volunteers. In addition, representatives of more than 30 cultural student organizations set up displays.

“As soon as the current year’s festival ends, organizers of next year’s festival begin meeting,” said Paula Wallace, marketing chair for the 2012 festival. “We brainstorm ideas over the summer, work on the Fall Festival once we come back to school and when that’s over we immediately go to work on the Intercultural Festival.”

Wallace is a senior majoring in psychology and expects to graduate in December.

The festival began informally more than a decade ago to unite VCU and surrounding neighborhoods as well as to raise cultural awareness and celebrate VCU's creativity and cultural diversity. The festival was recognized as an official tradition at VCU in 2003.

Many of this year’s leaders have been active in the Intercultural Festival during all four of their years at VCU.

Senior international business management major Amanda DeSanctis was a festival volunteer during her freshman and sophomore years and was operations manager last year, before becoming co-director this year.

Like many of the students who volunteer for the festival, she was attracted to VCU by the university’s diversity and her involvement with the Intercultural Festival has only enhanced the experience.

“I have met people of different backgrounds but we all have a lot in common.  We talk about the same music and experiences,” DeSanctis said. “At the end of the day, we’re of different cultural backgrounds but we’re united because we are all college students with the same hopes and goals.”

The festival has grown and changed over the years and really began to flourish as a community event in 2008 when it relocated from the University Student Commons Plaza to Monroe Park.

“I think that change has been important,” Amanda said. “Because for a lot of people, it’s sort of going back to their cultural roots of a day of old fashioned family fun on a Saturday in the park.”

And after the crowds thinned out and the vendors packed up, organizers were exhausted but satisfied that this year’s festival was a success.

“At the end of the day, we might be stressed out but many people are so excited about this, it’s really gratifying,” said DeSanctis.

And rest assured that the 2013 Intercultural Festival organizers are already hard at work on next year’s festival.

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Paula Wallace, marketing director of the 2012 Intercultural Festival at VCU.
Paula Wallace, marketing director of the 2012 Intercultural Festival at VCU.
Amanda DeSanctis, co-director of the 2012 Intercultural Festival at VCU.
Amanda DeSanctis, co-director of the 2012 Intercultural Festival at VCU.