Experiencing the cultures of dozens of countries in one day would typically be an unattainable goal, but the public can do just that for free Saturday.
Gilbert's fourth annual Global Village Festival will celebrate cultures and diversity with a parade, vendors, seminars and entertainment at the town's North Civic Center Campus.
After growing concerns over negative publicity the town was generating from racial and prejudice issues, Gayle Disch founded the Global Village Festival with Elizabeth Cress-Sweet of the town's Arts Advisory Board and Tami Smull, a member of the Human Relations Commission.
Disch, vice president of Gilbert Sister Cities, said she wanted to do something that encouraged diversity in the Gilbert community.
"I knew Gilbert to be such a different community than what was being portrayed, and I wanted to see the prejudice (and) racism be addressed," she said. "I thought the creation of the Human Relations Commission was one effective approach, but I also thought we should create opportunities to develop understanding and appreciation of cultures in Gilbert."
In its fourth year, the event is still going strong. The festival is expected to attract between 5,000 and 6,000 people this year, said Kimberly Grace, cultural arts coordinator for the town.
The festival is staged by the town in partnership with the town's Arts Advisory Board, Human Relations Commission, Gilbert Sister Cities and Gilbert Public Schools.
"This event invites members of the global community to share some of their cultural traditions and beliefs that have been handed down through time in their families so that we all might have a higher level of understanding," Grace said.
International entertainers will be featured on the world stage, including dancers, musicians and other performers.
Educational seminars will discuss cultural issues, world religions and international economic development.
Local artisans will sell their work while the international bazaar will allow visitors to purchase a souvenir from their favorite country.
A parade starting at 11 a.m. will celebrate the cultures of Mexico, New Zealand, China, Greece, Peru and other countries. Gilbert children participating in the parade will be dressed in traditional attire reflecting the countries they represent.
"I think (the festival) appeals to the public because it is a celebration of who we are," Disch said.
"I always find that interesting when people say that Gilbert isn't thought of as a diverse town, when in my experience I see us as very diverse."