Gate Ready to Open for International Festival at Heritage Park on June 28-29

The final touches are being completed so everything is ready when the gate opens at 10 a.m. today, for the International Festival at Heritage Park! Saturday hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Organizers only ask for canned goods to give to local food banks and used eyeglasses for the Lions Club Recycle for Sight program. The Forest City Lions Club will work at the gate, welcoming attendees and collecting food and eyeglasses.

“We’re so excited that the festival is almost here!” said Audrey Olmstead, leader of the International Festival Steering Committee. “We have logged many, many hours raising money, getting the word out and getting things ready — and now we are ready!” Audrey and her husband, Steve, are curators of Heritage Park. They follow in the footsteps of Audrey’s parents, Ruth and Stanford Holtan, who took care of Heritage Park for 10 years until Stan’s death. Ruth now resides at Good Samaritan Home in Forest City.

The International Festival will have four venues: 1) the Pavilion, 2) Storytelling in the Steel Wheel Café and Schoolhouse, 3) the Village Green and 4) the World Kitchen / Beaver Creek Church. It will also have children’s activities near the Pavilion.

Wayne Ripka Polka Band
Wayne Ripka Polka Band

The Pavilion will be the place these entertainers will perform: Laura MacKenzie, Wayne Ripke Polka Band, Ross & MacKenzie, Soten Taiko and Eulenspiegal Puppet Theatre.

Storytelling in the Steel Wheel Cafe is where the following will perform: Kris Meyer, Larry Yazzie, Pøtt Van Auken & Kris Meyer, and Ole & Sven. Lisa Ralls and Diana Novikova will give presentations in the Schoolhouse. Gov. Terry Branstad, who was invited but could not attend the festival, recorded a welcome video, which will be presented in the Schoolhouse.

The Village Green is where these entertainers will perform: Larry Yazzie, Nordic Dancers and Ross Sutter.

Beaver Creek Church is where Heritage Park’s resident pastor, Doug Snyder, will lead an ecumenical service at 10 a.m. on Sunday. Ross Sutter and Kris Meyer will participate in the service. The World Kitchen will be in the Beaver Creek Church basement.

“We will have a busy weekend in the church basement!” said Anne Bakke of Forest City. “We will eat our way around the world — starting in Norway and ending up in America.” Anne is a retired award-winning high-school food and family science teacher. She has lined up an array of cooks and dishes to demonstrate and offer samples to guests. (If you’re looking to buy lunch, check out our vendors and the Steel Wheel Cafe.) She will also have several displays: 1) 141 breads from around the world, 2) Christmas around the World, 3) apples, 4) spices, and 5) healthy foods.

The schedule for the World Kitchen is as follows:

Saturday, June 28

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Norwegian Potato Lefse (potetlefse)

12:30 p.m.: Dutch Pancakes (pannenkoeken)

1:15 p.m.: Wales — Welsh Cakes

2 p.m.: Irish Brown and Raisin Soda Bread

2:45 p.m.: German Pancakes (speckendicken)

3:30 p.m.: Icelandic Pancakes (pönnukökur)

4:15 p.m.: Italian Soup (zuppa Toscana)

5 p.m.: Christmas Cookie Decorating

Sunday, June 29

11:15 a.m.: Norwegian Cookies (krumkaker)

Noon: Norwegian Potato Dumplings (kumla)

12:45 p.m.: Japanese Curry Rice

1:30 p.m.: Chinese Egg Rolls

2:15 p.m.: Danish Pancakes (æbleskiver)

3 p.m.: Czech Pastries (kolache)

3:30 p.m.: American as Apple Pie!


The event will have a number of entertainers who will include Pastor Greg Anderson of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Forest City will be at the festival — with kilt and sword — to share stories and other life lessons from his heritage in Scotland.

Valorie Arrowsmith and Josie Arrowsmith Bagdons will provide international craft activities for the festival on Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. They work with many Nordic groups to help children and adults on their journeys to learn more about their culture and heritage. Valorie is an artist whose paintings and hand-woven textiles are in private collections in England, Germany, Sweden, Japan and Minnesota, and she is a licensed Swedish teacher in Minnesota. Josie has been a Swedish teacher at Concordia Language Villages in Minnesota and a tour guide at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.

Buffington Petting Zoo will be available Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and Sunday, noon-4 p.m. It will have alpacas, Frank the goat, chickens, ducks and a Great Pyrenees dog for young and old to enjoy. Tora and Brian Buffington run a hobby farm, Cedar Lane Acres, southwest of Forest City.

Eulenspiegal Puppet Theater

Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre will have two performances in the Pavilion on Sunday. It will present “Scales and Tails,” a set of two Asian stories that feature a pair of crocodiles, a tricky monkey, a large slithery serpent, and a brave little girl! The first story, “The Monkey and the Crocodile,” is a delightful hand puppet show created and performed by Justin Cornett-Olsson. The story is adapted from an ancient Indian tale found in “The Panchantantra” — an ancient Indian collection of animal fables in verse and prose written about 200 BC. It features a tricky monkey, a good-natured crocodile and his greedy wife. “Li Chi Slays the Serpent,” a classic girl-power tale performed by Angela Polowy, hails from ancient China and features a large, glittery gold serpent that emerges from a decorated box.

A nonprofit, tax-exempt puppet company, Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre is organized to promote the art of puppetry by producing and presenting high-quality performances and workshops. The company is committed to educating the public about the arts, serving as a center for the exchange of ideas and enhancing the quality of community life.

Laura MacKenzie will have two performances in the Pavilion on Saturday. Known as a “High Priestess of Celtic music” (Minnesota Public Radio), Laura  has received numerous honors and awards for her work in traditional music, including a Bush Foundation Fellowship in Traditional and Ethnic Performing Arts. She will perform with Ross Sutter as their duo “Ross & MacKenzie,” and she will also perform a solo program demonstrating and talking about her array of instruments and the music. She sings and plays wooden flutes, whistles, concertina, gemshorn and a variety of bagpipes, including Scottish smallpipes, Border pipes, English greatpipes and French Cornemuse.

Kris Meyer will perform at the festival on both Saturday and Sunday. Kris is a storyteller who enjoys audiences of all ages. She offers her stories with inspiration, a quick wit, a warm spirit and lots of energy. Her stories grow out of folklore, human experiences that teach an understanding of life and things conjured up in a vivid imagination. She has researched extensively in the area of resiliency. She has presented throughout the Midwest, as well as in Sweden and China. Kris teaches in the graduate program of counseling for Buena Vista University and lives in Waverly, Iowa, with her husband, Don. With more than 25 years of storytelling experience, she delights in motivating any age through the wonder of stories.

Nordic Dancers 1

Nordic Dancers of Decorah will perform at the festival on Saturday. They will be a part of the opening ceremony and parade, and they have two performances on the Village Green. The Nordic Dancers is an exclusive group of children and young adults whose purpose is to keep alive the traditional folk dances of Norway. The group was founded in 1966 and closely resembles local folk-dancing groups in Norway.

Nordic Dancers 2

Diana Novikova will give a presentation of her home country, Turkmenistan, at the schoolhouse at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Diana is a student at Waldorf College.

Ole & Sven will perform at the festival on both Saturday and Sunday. Stop by the Steel Wheel Cafe for Storytelling times and laugh with Rolf Anderson, Steve Olmstead and Steve Holtan. Rolf will also play his guitar and sing “Mr. Bojangles.”

Lisa Ralls will be at the Trapper’s Cabin from noon to 2 p.m. on both days. She will give a presentation about endangered animals around the world at the Schoolhouse at 2 p.m. on both days. Lisa Ralls has been a naturalist for the Winnebago County Conservation Board since 1985. She manages the WCCB’s Environmental Education Program and presents environmental programs for schools, youth groups and the general public. She also publishes the WCCB’s newsletter, issues press releases, writes a monthly column for county newspapers and manages the WCCB’s website. She was born in Omaha, earned a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Biology from Iowa State University and a master’s degree in Science Education from the University of Iowa. She is married with one son, who will be a high school senior this fall. In her free time, she likes to read and spend time outdoors — camping, canoeing, hiking and fishing.

Wayne Ripke Polka Band will perform at the Pavilion on Saturday.Formed in 1963, it is known as one of the top polka bands in Iowa. The band features two trumpets, two saxophones, a tuba, a drum set and bandleader Wayne Ripke on the concertina.

Ross Sutter will perform both days of the festival. He will participate in the Sunday morning service at Beaver Creek Church, and he will lead the closing ceremonies on Sunday afternoon. He will also be at Heritage Park on Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. to teach children dances to perform during the festival.

Organizers are encouraging children to join Ross Sutter on Friday, June 27, from 3 to 5 p.m., at Heritage Park! Ross will teach everyone song games for the Midsummer pole, which will be performed during the International Festival on Saturday (1 p.m.) and Sunday (1:30 p.m.). Ross encourages fourth- and fifth-graders, who have worked with him the last two years at Forest City Elementary, to come — but any students from second grade on up are welcome! Meet on the Village Green at Heritage Park. There will be a break with refreshments.

Ross Sutter
Ross Sutter

 Ross Sutter is a singer and musician who teaches singing and dancing of Scandinavian, Scottish and Irish songs, as well as American traditional and popular songs. Sutter accompanies himself on guitar, dulcimer, button accordion and bodhran, the Irish goat-skin drum. He travels around the country performing and holding school residencies and workshops. He is a favorite at Forest City Community Schools, as well as many others in the area.

Walk around the World will be available Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and Sunday, 11-3:30 p.m. Walk around the World is a fun activity for children of all ages, sponsored by Shopko and the Forest City YMCA.

Soten Taiko will perform on Sunday in the Pavilion. Composed of six drummers, Soten Taiko is the taiko drumming club of the Japan America Society of Iowa, headquartered in Des Moines. The drummers play both traditional and original taiko pieces, and they also perform a Japanese shishi mai (lion) dance. Soten Taiko regularly perform at cultural events in central Iowa. Current members are Kiyo Matsuyama, Ben Blystone, Amanda Gran, Tanis Sotelo, Akira Mizushima and Ian Schwarz.

Larry Yazzie

Larry Yazzie will perform on both days of the festival, and he will participate in storytelling as well. Rainbow-colored headdresses, pulsating drumming, and fancy footwork are part of the excitement of a Native American powwow. Experience the artistry of two-time world champion Fancy Dancer, Larry Yazzie (Meskwaki) and the Native Pride Dancers as they perform flamboyant movements passed down by their ancestors with song and dance. Larry Yazzie is an International Lecturer, Educator, Performer, and a Two-Time World Champion Fancy Dancer. He is also the recipient of the prestigious 2012 A.P. Anderson Award. Formed in 2003 and directed by Larry Yazzie, the Native Pride Dancers strive to educate and entertain audiences of all ages throughout the world on the beauty, skill, and majesty of American Indian music and dance. Based in Minnesota, the Native Pride Dancers perform locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. The Native Pride Dancers’ mission is to educate, inspire, motivate and empower diverse communities to bridge cultural gaps through Indigenous traditions.